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Race Raised in London Fatal High-Rise Fire Inquiry

Lawyer for survivors says race must be considered

 

This is a June 14, 2017 handout grab taken from video issued by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, timestamped between 01.26 and 01.29, showing the fire spreading up the tower. Residents of London’s Grenfell Tower high-rise were wrongly told to stay in their apartments as fire raged through the building, aided by flammable external cladding and a host of fire-safety failings an expert report said Monday, June 4, 2018. (Grenfell Tower Inquiry/via AP)

 

LONDON (AP) — The inquiry into Britain’s Grenfell Tower fire should consider whether racism contributed to the deaths of 72 people in the blaze, a lawyer for survivors said Tuesday.

Imran Khan said it’s “vital … that race, religion and social class are considered” by the judge-led inquiry.

The inquiry is investigating causes of the June 2017 high-rise blaze to prevent future tragedies. But some survivors want a wider scope. They accuse officials of ignoring safety concerns because the public-housing block was home to largely to immigrant and working-class residents.

Khan, who represents some of the bereaved and survivors, said that unless race and class are considered, “we will be putting at risk the lives of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people from black and ethnic minority communities who are over-represented in high-rise blocks across Britain.”

Expert reports commissioned by the inquiry have said that a 2016 refurbishment that added flammable external cladding to the tower helped the braze spread from a four-floor apartment to engulf the building.

A lawyer for another group of survivors, Danny Friedman, said the refurbishment had turned the building into a “death trap.”

The inquiry will hear from companies involved in the refurbishment and the management company that oversaw the tower. In opening statements, they urged the inquiry not to rush to judgment.

Arconic, a company that supplied aluminum cladding panels to Grenfell, said the cladding was “at most, a contributing feature to the fire.”

“The panels did not render inevitable the catastrophe which ensued,” the company said.

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