London (AFP) – Commemorations begin on Wednesday to honour the 71 people who died when a fire ripped through the Grenfell tower block in London one year ago.
The burnt-out tower will light up in green, along with Prime Minister Theresa May’s Downing Street office, to mark the country’s deadliest domestic fire since World War II.
May told parliament on Wednesday that the “unimaginable tragedy remains at the forefront of our minds”.
Grenfell residents have planned a series of events, starting with a communal meal in the shadow of the charred apartment block at 6.00pm (1700 GMT) followed by workshops to create signs, bracelets and t-shirts for the anniversary.
The fire broke out because of a faulty fridge in the kitchen of a fourth-floor flat in the 24-storey tower.
The fire brigade received the first call at 12.54am on June 14 last year, as the flames spread swiftly up the building.
As part of the commemorations, 72 white roses — one for each of the people who perished, along with one for a stillborn baby — will be placed at the so-called “wall of truth”, near the tower.
There will also be 72 seconds of silence at 12.54am in honour of the victims.
“It’s very much a local affair,” said Samia Badani, co-chair of a board that represents around 1,000 local households.
“We wanted to have a private moment where we could recreate this community spirit that we are proud of,” she added.
The commemorations will continue on Thursday with church services, special prayers at a local mosque, wreath-laying and the unveiling of a community mosaic.
A silent walk will also be held — similar to the ones that take place on the 14th every month — while banners in memory of the victims have been unfurled over the top four floors of the tower.
Relatives of those who died have recently provided heart-rending testimony about their loved ones’ final moments at the beginning of a public inquiry into the fire, reminding Britons of the shocking scale of the tragedy.
Residents argue the wealthy borough neglected the less affluent northern section that is home to Grenfell and surrounding public housing.
They also accuse it of cost-cutting on the refurbishment, which included the installation of cladding blamed for the fire, and bungling its overall response.
The fire service has also come under the spotlight over its advice at the time for residents to stay put, which was only lifted two hours after the blaze began.
Kerry O’Hara, a survivor from the sixth floor, told AFP: “I was glad that I didn’t follow that advice and I just hate to think what would’ve happened if I’d stayed put.”
Speaking in parliament, May defended her government’s actions.
“We are doing everything that we can to see that the survivors of Grenfell get the homes and support that they need and the truth and justice that they deserve,” she said.