Akala on the Grenfell Tower fire: 'These people died because they were poor'

Rapper and poet has criticised officials over claims that there were no fire alarms and no sprinklers in the building

Roisin O'Connor
Music Correspondent
Thursday 15 June 2017 08:26
Akala on Grenfell Tower fire: 'These people died because they were poor'

Akala has spoken out over the fire at a tower block of flats in west London and said that people died in the blaze "because they were poor".

Speaking to Channel 4 News, the Mobo-award winning artist and writer - who lives in the area -gave his response a short distance away from Grenfell Tower, where at least 12 people have died after a fire broke out.

Hundreds of firefighters were sent to the 24-story building in north Kensington where witnesses reported "terrifying" scenes.

Many residents were trapped in their homes as smoke filled the corridors, and some suggested they did not hear any alarms when the fire began.

"The people who died and lost their homes - this happened to them because they are poor," Akala said.

"We are in one of the richest spaces not just London but in the world. Repeated requests were ignored. There is no way that rich people would be living in a building without adequate fire safety.

"Everybody I spoke to couldn't hear alarms, there was no sprinkler system..."

Local resident Joe Delaney, who managed to escape the fire and also help some of his neighbours get out of the building with their children, backed up Akala's claim that there were "no alarms".

Responding to presenter Jon Snow's comment about spending on refurbishments for the building last year, Akala said: "It was an eyesore for the rich people who lived opposite.

"So they put panels, pretty panels on the outside, so the rich people who lived opposite wouldn't have to look at a horrendous block."

Theresa May's government is under pressure to respond to claims that it neglected requests to improve fire safety in buildings despite repeated warnings about the potential for tragedies such as the one at Grenfell Tower.

Jeremy Corbyn has called on May's new chief of staff Gavin Barwell, who failed to give the go-ahead to a safety review during his tenure as housing minister, to face questioning.

Particular attention has been drawn to the cladding which was added to Grenfell Tower, in part to improve its appearance, during a refurbishment last year.

A planning document for the regeneration work published in 2014 made repeated reference to "the appearance of the area" and was used as justification for the material used on the outside of the building.

Experts are now saying that the cladding may have helped spread the blaze quickly up the outside of the building.

Mike Penning, a Conservative MP who worked as a firefighter then as fire minister, said: "The cladding was clearly spreading the fire. We need to find out what went on."

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