Survivors traumatized six months after London tower blaze

Police man a security cordon as a huge fire engulfs the Grenfell Tower early June 14, 2017 in west London. (AFP)
Updated 11 December 2017
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Survivors traumatized six months after London tower blaze

LONDON: Six months after a fire ripped through the Grenfell Tower apartment block in London killing 70, survivors are traumatized and bitter, saying they have been abandoned to their fate.
At the end of November, 208 households have found a permanent home, but there are still 123 others living in emergency accommodation, the majority in a hotel.
“You said this is history — this has not been history for me, I’ve lived this every day for the last six months,” said a young woman, trembling, during a meeting organized by the authorities on Tuesday.
Her mother lived on the 23rd floor of the building in west London, but was not at home when the blaze struck on the night of June 14.
Seventy people were killed in the fire, including a number of children, while a stillborn baby was additionally recorded by police as a victim.
“My mum is going to be 67 and she is still in a hotel — she has been in a hotel for six months,” the woman said, criticizing a “lack of empathy” from authorities.
With Christmas approaching, the director of the Justice4Grenfell Association, Judy Bolton, is worried about the families who fled the flames.
“Has anybody thought about the impact on those in hotels facing Christmas in one room with children, not being able to cook a Christmas dinner, to sit around the table?” she said.
“What have you put in place to ensure that these people don’t feel isolated, don’t feel left apart, don’t feel ignored?” Bolton asked.
Mary Weale, responsible for communities within Grenfell’s borough of Kensington and Chelsea, acknowledged that the festive season “is often a time of heightened stress, anxiety and depression.”

“As Christmas approaches we have to be particularly concerned about suicide risks,” she said, explaining the council aimed “to identify people at risk and focus on them.”
Weale described mental heath as an “enormous issue,” recognizing that survivors will need support for years to come.
Some survivors argue they have not received the help they need.
“My mum gave birth to me in that tower, on that 10th floor,” said Ishmael Francis-Murray, who said he hasn’t received any assistance.
“My kids are not sleeping,” he added, while the blackened tower block looms over the neighborhood as a constant reminder of the deadly blaze.
The streets are covered with small yellow ribbons, teddy bears and tokens of affection left for the victims, alongside the words “truth” and “justice” which hint at the widespread mistrust of the authorities.

Some people believe that the police underestimated the death toll, announced last month after an unprecedented search operation, arguing that it did not fully take into account people living in the tower illegally.
A public inquiry being led by a retired judge has also been challenged. A petition calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to “build public trust” in the inquiry has gained more than 15,000 signatures, including the support of singer Adele.
The aftermath of the fire has seen numerous marches to remember the victims and another will take place on Thursday, the six-month anniversary, in addition to a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Vassiliki Stavrou-Loraine, 66, lived opposite Grenfell Tower and knew many of the victims after 35 years in the neighborhood.
She said she has suffered health problems from the smoke and dust which hung over the neighborhood for days after the fire.
“I felt very dry in the mouth, my eyes were very sore. I had nausea, pain in the stomach, headaches... A lot of people complain,” she told AFP.
“We don’t know what the long terms effects will be.”
Beyond the physical health issues, the pensioner remains traumatized by witnessing the fire engulf the 24-story block.
“We heard the children screaming, asking desperately for help and then it stopped. It was the worst moment of my life,” she said.


Moon says Kim agreed to allow nuke inspections

In this image made from video provided by Korea Broadcasting System (KBS), South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pose after signing documents in Pyongyang, North Korea Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. (AP)
Updated 50 min 20 sec ago
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Moon says Kim agreed to allow nuke inspections

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have started their second day of summit talks in Pyongyang over the nuclear standoff and other inter-Korean issues
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has greeted South Korean President Moon Jae-in upon his arrival in Pyongyang for their third summit this year to improve ties and help resolve the nuclear standoff

SEOUL: North Korea has agreed to “permanently” abolish its key missile facilities in the presence of foreign experts, and is willing to close its main nuclear complex if the United States takes reciprocal action, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a joint news conference following their summit talks in Pyongyang, Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said they agreed to turn the Korean peninsula into a “land of peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats.”
Kim said he will visit Seoul in the near future, in what would be the first-ever visit to the South’s capital by a North Korean leader.
The latest summit will be a litmus test for stalled negotiations on the North’s nuclear program between Pyongyang and Washington, and for another meeting Kim recently proposed to US President Donald Trump following their historic encounter in June in Singapore.
Moon was seeking to engineer a proposal that combines a framework for the North’s denuclearization and a joint declaration ending the 1950-53 Korean War.
Kim pledged to work toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” during his first encounter with Moon, and at his summit with Trump in June.
But discussions over how to implement the vague commitments have since faltered, with Washington demanding concrete action toward denuclearization by North Korea before agreeing to a key goal of Pyongyang — declaring an end to the war.
North Korea has given no indication it is willing to give up its nuclear arsenal unilaterally and is seeking relief from crippling international sanctions.
North Korea has offered to stop nuclear and missile tests but did not allowed international inspections for a dismantlemnt of its only known nuclear site in May, drawing criticism that its action could not be verified and could be easily reversed.

ART TOUR
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a news briefing on Tuesday that Washington hoped the latest inter-Korean summit would bring about “meaningful, verifiable steps toward the denuclearization of North Korea” and called it a “historic opportunity” for Kim to follow through on commitments he made with Trump.
Later on Wednesday, Moon’s delegation will tour the Mansudae Art Studio, the North’s largest producer of art where state artists build statues and produce propaganda at a sprawling complex in Pyongyang.
The institution was sanctioned by the UN Security Council last year as part of global efforts to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs by drying up its revenue sources.
Moon is also scheduled to watch the North’s signature “Brilliant Fatherland” Mass Game which was reintroduced this year following a five-year hiatus, with a formation of glowing drones, lasers and stadium-sized gymnastics shows designed to glorify the country.
The United States is pressing countries to strictly observe international sanctions, which will likely be a key theme when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosts a Security Council meeting on North Korea on Sept. 27 on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly.

“NEW ERA“
This week’s summit is intended to craft concrete steps to implement the Panmunjom Declaration, named after the border village where they first met, Seoul officials said.
The two Koreas also adopted a separate military accord aimed at preventing armed clashes between the old foes, which are technically still at war because the Korean War ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.
The neighbors have already agreed to withdraw some guard posts and equipment, in a bid to transform the world’s most heavily fortified border into a no-weapons area.
Pyongyang says it has destroyed its main nuclear and missile engine test site, and has halted atomic and ballistic missile tests, but US officials and analysts believe it is continuing to work on its weapons plans clandestinely.
South Korea is pinning high hopes on Kim’s remarks to Moon’s special envoys earlier this month that he wanted to achieve denuclearization within Trump’s first term in office ending in early 2021. Kim at the same time also stressed Washington must reciprocate his initial “goodwill” gestures.
“While Moon has expressed his desire to agree on a concrete plan on denuclearization, we believe that the two nations still differ on this concept,” said Anwita Basu, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.
In previous, failed talks, North Korea has said it could consider giving up its nuclear program if the United States provided security guarantees by removing troops from South Korea and withdrawing its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from the South and Japan.
US officials involved in the latest negotiations have said North Korea has refused to even start discussions about defining denuclearization. (Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Joyce Lee and Soyoung Kim; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Lincoln Feast.)