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Grenfell Tower fire: 19th floor survivor says he will be forever haunted by tragedy

'When the fire brigade got me out, I just looked back once and that one vision will stay in my brain forever'

Lucy Pasha-Robinson
Thursday 27 July 2017 17:03 BST
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Grenfell survivor: Images of blaze will stay with me forever

A survivor of the Grenfell Tower fire who escaped from the 19th floor has told how he will be forever haunted by what he saw that night.

Nicholas Burton had lived in the block since the 1980s and was carried out of the inferno with his sick wife by firefighters around two and a half hours after the blaze began.

The 50-year-old has since met with Theresa May three times and worked with fellow survivors to ensure more vulnerable victims are receiving enough information.

Recounting the night of the 14 June, he said those outside of the block had been traumatised by watching their friends and neighbours scream for help.

"I'm glad that I came down the tower, but I'd be horrified if I'd actually had to watch the tower being on fire," he said.

"When the fire brigade got me out, I just looked back once and that one vision will stay in my brain forever.

"To actually sit there and watch your loved ones, your friends your neighbours, it must have been horrendous."

At least 80 people died after the fire tore through the 24-storey tower block in North Kensington, with hundreds more left without a home.

Mr Burton, whose wife remains in hospital, claimed he could have rehoused everyone within 48 hours of the tragedy as he called for the council to temporarily acquire empty flats within the area.

The former catering manager remains in a hotel room six weeks on from the blaze and hit out at the council's "undignified" response, accusing the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council of treating residents like the "undeserving poor".

He said: "The truth is that most of the people in the tower were professional people.

"They worked all their lives. There's leaseholders, people who bought their flats, people from all sorts of backgrounds and ethnicity, but they still treat us as master and servant.

"I've been round to all the estate agents. There's thousands of flats and houses in the Royal Borough. But we're the undeserving, they are not going to put their hand in their pocket and get us a short-term lease for six months."

"I could have done it in 48 hours. But six weeks down the line, we're still in the hotels looking for ex-council flats. Those are the kinds of conversations that we're having and we're having to do all the work, we're having to chase. It's not really dignified."

He also hit out at the Government inquiry into the blaze and compared it to controversial long-running inquiries into the Hillsborough tragedy and Bloody Sunday.

He said: "It's just a blanket they put over. The Government use it to stay in power. I spoke to the judge. I said all due respect, sir, you're 70 years old if this was the Hillsborough, you'd be 98 now. So are you going to be in it for the long run?

"That took 28 years, the Savile inquiry for Bloody Sunday was 1972. That took 30 years. There's all these inquiries, but it's just for the Government to say we're doing something."

It comes as residents warned the council that mental health provision in the borough was inadequate to help those suffering in the aftermath.

At a public meeting on Wednesday, one volunteer urged a panel of Government gold command representatives to do more for the families of the dead who live outside the borough, who she said were "completely isolated" and lacking support.

Council commissioning director Rachel Turner-Wright vowed to do more for survivors and affected residents and, along with council leader Elizabeth Campbell, promised to visit anyone who felt they was not being properly supported.

Additional reporting by PA

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