LONDON – Prince William and British politicians joined in memorial services Tuesday to mark five years since 72 people died in London's Grenfell Tower blaze, the worst domestic fire on British soil since World War II.
William and his wife, Kate, participated in a multi-faith service in the shadow of the high-rise apartment tower in west London. They observed a 72-second silence in memory of the 72 victims of the fire, and green balloons were released in memory of the 18 children who perished.
Hundreds of people marched in silence around the tower after the service as rows of London firefighters lined the road in a show of solidarity.
Earlier Tuesday, former Prime Minister Theresa May and London Mayor Sadiq Khan joined survivors and the bereaved at a Westminster Abbey memorial service. As religious leaders read out the names of those who died, the congregation said in unison: “Forever in our hearts.”
Rev. David Hoyle, the dean of Westminster, told the memorial service that five years on, the loss and anguish was “still vivid and sharp.”
The June 14, 2017 inferno at Grenfell Tower, a public housing building set in Britain’s richest borough of Kensington and Chelsea, horrified the nation and prompted many questions about lax safety regulations and other failings by officials and businesses that contributed to so many deaths.
The fire broke out in the middle of the night in a kitchen on the fourth floor of the tower and spread rapidly up the outside of the 25-story building like a lit fuse. Flammable cladding panels installed on the tower’s exterior walls have been blamed for how the fire raced out of control.
A public inquiry has been conducting a years-long investigation into the disaster, and a large police investigation is also ongoing. No one has been charged, and police have said there will be no prosecutions until the public inquiry is completed.
That has frustrated many survivors and bereaved families. The Rev. Graham Tomlin, bishop of Kensington, said many families cannot move on until they find justice.
“They can’t find any sense of acceptance or integration of what’s happened in their lives,” he told Times Radio. “They can’t rebuild their lives until there’s a sense of justice, because people feel that something deeply wrong went on at Grenfell and yet no one has been held responsible for it.”
Last month the British government banned metal composite cladding panels for all new buildings.
Officials have also issued new safety regulations requiring similar dangerous cladding to be removed from tower blocks across the country. But it's an expensive job and the work hasn’t been carried out on some apartment buildings because of wrangling over who should pay.