Greetings brothers and sisters of the metropolis, today I feel its a little inappropriate entering into the world of all things Taxi related given that we have had another week and yet another sombre cloud descending upon London, not from the grubby claws of terror but from the worst that mother nature has to offer.....fire.....quite possibly the worst building fire that London has seen since the blitz.
At 24 floors and over 250 feet tall Grenfell House was built in the brutalist style much like it's larger near neighbour Trellick Tower in the early 70s and incorporates over 120 1 and 2 bedroom flats holding an estimated 600 people. At the moment there has been 12 confirmed fatalities and more than 70 hospitalised including 18 critically injured. If all of the reports are correct then this number is set to rise sharply as many are missing and it is believed that nobody escaped the top 3 floors.
As I sat I gridlock in the Notting Hill area at around 6pm on the14th of June and then drove through Paddington at around 4am on the 15th the thing that struck me most was the acrid burning chemical smell that hit my nostrils as well as a fine layer of blackened dust on the cars in the area. The fire itself is still burning more than 24 hours after being reported. The other thing that has struck me is how the building can still be standing given the ferocity of the blaze. It's a miracle that anybody came out alive, there have been reports of children being dropped from windows by despairing parents......including a baby dropped from the 8th or 9th floor who was miraculously caught by a member of the public.
What must be recognised is the efficiency of our emergency services and the unwavering bravery of the fire service in particular, operating in incredibly difficult conditions under the shadow of a potential building collapse. According to members of the fire service this particular blaze behaved in an extremely unusual way in respect of the way that it was able to spread, this factor among others exacerbated an already hideously difficult situation. We also have to recognise the speed and kindness of the individuals who mobilised at a moment's notice to assist those displaced by the fire, there have been reports of people driving down from Coventry and Peterborough to assist as well as many from all over London. Within less than 24 hours a crowd funding campaign to help the families of Grenfell Tower exceeded HALF A MILLION POUNDS and at one point there had been such an influx of essentials for the families that the public were asked to hold back their donations for a short length of time as "drop-off points" struggled to cope with the distribution of goods.
At this moment in time there is so much speculation as to the cause of the blaze, how it spread so rapidly, why certain safety initiatives failed and what the eventual number of those who have perished might be, did a fridge explode?, was there a void in the cladding that helped spread the blaze? Why were there no sprinklers? Why weren't the smoke alarms fully operational? it would be irresponsible of me to speculate so I will not even attempt to try. There will of course be a full investigation, if there is responsibility to be apportioned then justice must be done and seen to be done. This tragedy must be seen as a stark reminder to any given government in the UK that we have to have a full complement of emergency service operatives, careless cuts cost lives.
Keep those doors locked and let's be careful out there