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Grenfell Tower Fire
Edit by. Jason Whang | Published. 2017.09.06 20:14 | Count : 339
 
A building is on fire in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Firefighters are battling a massive fire in an apartment high-rise in London. One side of the building appeared to be in flames. (Source: AP-Yonhap via The Korea Herald)
On June 14th, Grenfell Tower caught on fire, claiming the lives of 80 people and counting. The deadly blaze occurred around 1 in the morning and local authorities reported that many residents were sleeping and could not evacuate in time. Six people were confirmed dead after unsuccessfully jumping off the building. The first batch of emergency services responded within 6 minutes. Forty-five fire engines and more than two-hundred firemen were deployed to the scene. Despite the swift movements of the fire fighters, the fire could not be contained on account of the poor renovation of the building. The fire department later confirmed the cause of the fire to be a faulty refrigerator on the fourth floor. 
Grenfell Tower was constructed in 1974 as a housing project initiated by the British government. The building was a public housing flat where senior citizens, migrants, and low-income families of London resided in. In 2016, the building underwent a major refurbishment which included the installment of exterior cladding. Since 2013, the residents of Grenfell Tower had been pushing for a reevaluation of fire-related systems and expressing concerns over fire safety, only to be ignored by the top managers. 
 
The massive fire ripped through the 27-storey apartment block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday, trapping residents inside as 200 firefighters battled the blaze. (Source: Yonhap via The Korea Herald)
The sad irony of the fire that took the lives of so many residents of the building is that the newly renovated cladding walls had done the residents more harm than good. Fire safety experts claim that the cladding was coated with metal and polyethylene, a plastic that is less fire resistant than the commonly used material. Reynobond Polyethylene (PE), a more flammable substance than Reynobond Fire-Resistant (FR), the fire-resistant counterpart, quickly spread the fire from the fourth floor to the top in a matter of minutes. The head managers of the renovation company, Rydon Limited, had allegedly switched the pre-approved cladding material to a cheaper material despite multiple warnings of potential safety hazard.
This incident is reminiscent of the 2014 Sewol Ferry tragedy in South Korea. Top managers of Semo Limited, the parent company that owned the Sewol Ferry, was found guilty for manipulating official records to carry excess cargo on the ferry, which contributed to the death of 304 people. Similar to the fire, safety protocols were not enforced in the Ferry tragedy as the captain told students to stay in the sinking ships until rescue teams arrived. 
 
Sewol Ferry Sinking (Source: The Korea Herald)
The disaster sparked outrage in Britain. Many criticized Prime Minister Theresa May and her administration for not meeting with the victims after an election loss. May’s administration offered compensation and expressed condolences only after many citizens expressed their dissatisfaction over her actions. 
 
Fire damage at Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey apartment block in North Kensington, London, Britain.(Source: Yonhap via The Korea Herald)
Mr. John Cox, a tourist in Korea visiting from London, United Kingdom, stated that the tragedy is not only about fire prevention awareness, instead “the sad truth” of the lack of governmental concern for the needy people in the community.
 
Floral tributes close to Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey apartment block in North Kensington, London, Britain. (Source: Yonhap via The Korea Herald)
The tragedy sparked policymakers to scrutinize fire prevention protocols in buildings around the world as many people voiced concern over the poorly-maintained sprinkler systems. Specifically, the catastrophe at Grenfell Tower was an eye-opener to the British government for their apathy toward low-income citizens. The fire debunked her election promise of empowering the low-income citizens of the country as it showed the lack of governmental concern over certain individuals. 
 
 








Jason Whang
Grade 10
Seoul Foreign School

Jason Whang  student_reporter@dherald.com

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