Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Lakanal and Marie Curie Residents Meetings

Last night I popped into meetings for residents of Lakanal and Marie Curie following Friday's fire. Marie Curie is identical in design and structure to Lakanal, so the residents of that building are naturally anxious to know whether their block is safe.

The Lakanal meeting was packed and very emotional. People are clearly still traumatised about the events of Friday, and with no idea when they may be able to return to their homes or reclaim their possessions tempers were running fairly high. It was disappointing that the meeting was being held in a hall which was not big enough for the numbers who attended, and it was difficult to hear some of the questions and answers at times. There are many questions that need to be answered and I felt that many of the residents needed an urgent face-to-face interview with council officers, rather than trying to make themselves heard in a public meeting.

One of the questions which troubles me is whether we should be housing young families and older people above a certain level in tower blocks. The fact that three of the Lakanal victims were children raises a question over how easy it is to organise a family's escape from a fire.

I walked with Harriet Harman to the Marie Curie residents meeting which had been moved to the Town Hall. Reports from the meeting suggest that the fire service is still at something of a loss to explain why the fire spread as it did through Lakanal. The advice being given to residents of Marie Curie was to stay in their flats in the event of a fire and move to the balcony for rescue. But this is exactly the same advice that was being given to residents of Lakanal on Friday.

So some very serious and very worrying questions remain. I hope that the fire service and Council act with real urgency to address those questions - in hours and days rather than in weeks and months.

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