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Hundreds of volunteers in Westminster support victims of Grenfell Tower blaze

Westminster Council launch urgent safety review into borough's tower blocks

16 June, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

Volunteers help out at the Beethoven Centre in Queen’s Park

A FIRE safety review was launched in Westminster this week as hundreds of volunteers worked round the clock to support residents affected by the Ladbroke Grove tower block disaster.

Last night (Thursday) the council revealed that “independent specialists” had began “urgent checks” on panels in six blocks on the Little Venice Estate. They were put there by the same company that installed cladding at Grenfell Tower, where 17 people are known to have died on Wednesday morning. The council said there was “no reason” to believe the cladding was the same type and that they were checking as a “precaution”.

Groups across north Westminster have held major collection drives with hundreds of bags of food, clothes and other necessities stored in community and sports centres for residents of Grenfell Tower. Professional women’s footballer Eartha Pond, who lives in Queen’s Park, has set up a fundraising page that by yesterday had raised more than £45,000 for those affected.

Her petition said: “In a climate when postcodes are sometimes used to separate inner-city communities it’s essential we come together all across the UK to show cohesion and solidarity.”

Westminster Council is urging anyone with concerns about their block to get in touch with them.

At the Beethoven Centre in Queen’s Park, where hundreds of bags are being held, community councillor Ryan Dalton said: “We have been collecting donations, lots of brilliant residents have been donating toiletries, things like toothbrushes and toothpaste.”

Maida Vale councillor Rita Begum said: “My car was full of clothes, nappies, water bottles, toys, so many donations. We had so many volunteers from as far away as Birmingham. People just said they wanted to help. It’s the community spirit, people want to give their time, they want to get together and help.”

The Cleveland Arms pub in Chilworth Street, Bayswater, also held a donations drive for clothes to help those affected. Westminster’s housing chief Cllr Rachael Robathan paid tribute to all those affected by the “dreadful fire”.

“We are offering all the support we can to our neighbouring borough to help those affected in any practical way we can. This includes Westminster staff working in the respite centres, offering accommodation for those who have lost their homes and access to our housing options service to help with rehousing.”

She added: “We understand how concerned people will be about what has happened, which is why we want to reassure everyone that Westminster makes safety our number one priority. We want to make sure people know what to do in the event of a fire. The fire action plan for tower blocks is clearly displayed in the communal entrance of these buildings, which lets people know what to do in the event of a fire. This plan is tailored to each block and has been created with specific buildings in mind. We are asking people with particular concerns about their building or who are unclear about what to do in the event of a fire to get in touch with us.”

Council leader Nickie Aiken said: “Our thoughts are with everyone who is affected by this horrendous fire. I want to pay tribute to the emergency services, who have rushed into a dangerous situation with just one thing on their mind – the safety of others. They do an incredible job.”

Advice is available on the London Fire Brigade website, www.london-fire.gov.uk/know-the-plan.asp

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