Grenfell Tower residents were forced to “live in a chimney” in which they were “cremated unwillingly”, the inquiry into the disaster heard today in a statement that also criticised the advice to residents to ‘stay put’ in the event of a fire.
Solicitor Mark Scott, reading a statement written by a relation of a family of five who died, said: “Grenfell Tower was on fire 24 hours; it feels like the attempt to save them stopped too early.
“I am not blaming the firefighters; I’m sure they did their best with whatever they had but some other government department somewhere was just watching them turn to ashes.”
The statement added that television viewers around the world saw a woman wave a white handkerchief to signal her presence to rescuers from the same floor on which Nura Jamal, Hashim Kadir, Yahya Hashim, Yaqub Hashim and Firdaws Hashim died.
Speaking at the inquiry commemoration session at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, Mr Scott continued: “A helicopter was filming them; the same helicopter could have saved [at least] one child.
“I have a problem accepting the UK, one of the most powerful countries in the world, could not have done more in the year 2017 to save them.
“Why was more not done? Was it because the lives of those in Grenfell Tower did not matter, was it because our pain did not matter, was the cost of trying to do more higher than the lives of our loved ones?
“Dying is one thing, how you die is another thing, and how you are treated after you die is a third thing, and our family were let down on all three.”
Mr Scott said the family felt their relations had been “made to live in a chimney with a ‘stay put’ instruction hanging on their wall and they were instructed repeatedly to stay in their flat although everyone understood the fire was far from usual; they were cremated unwillingly”.
Inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick described the statement as “a very moving and very powerful tribute”.
Mr Scott earlier provoked rare laughter at the session by recalling that six-year-old Yaqub could already conduct a reasoned argument when he had said, when prevented by his mother from watching television: “She allows her husband to watch football whenever he wants and he does that always, while she refuses me, her son, to watch television all the time; this is not fair.”
Earlier in the day, Sara Chebiouni, aged nine, paid tribute to her cousin Mehdi El-Wahabi, who lived on the block’s 21st floor and died alongside family members Nur Huda, Yasin, Faouzia and Abdulaziz Wahabi.
Ms Chebiouni recalled that she often played with her cousins on the landing by their flat as “it was fun and child friendly, more than the ninth floor where I lived”.
“I take comfort that my cousin’s neighbours will soon be my neighbours when we move into our new homes.”
A friend paid tribute to Ligaya Moore, 78, the remaining victim from floor 21, reading a statement on behalf of relations in her native Philippines.
“She was proud to live in Grenfell and loved the area, she loved to see the beauty of London from her window said she was on top of the world.”
Jessica Urbano Ramirez died in the tower two weeks before her 13th birthday. Her father recalled that she had already been planning a coming-of-age party for when she was 15, which is the custom in the Colombian community.
He said: “She used to make us laugh every single day. Our life is destroyed without her. Every hour we lose concentration on what we are doing because she is in our thoughts.”
Other tributes were paid today to victims Steve Power, Khadija Khalloufi and Vince Cheijna.
Holborn Bars, London, where the inquiry sessions are taking place
Here are all our reports from the Grenfell Inquiry so far: