A catalogue of failure

On Sunday December 26, there was a fire in the bin area of the Lionel Oxley House tower block in Grays. The fire knocked out the power supply to around a quarter of the flats in the block. This is the latest in a series of updates on the fire and its aftermath from Thurrock Nub News: UPDATED: Residents left without power and heat despite council pledges – and repairs have still not been made, while fire alarm system shows faults. What price residents’ safety in tower blocks?

This is a brief summary of the catalogue of failure that has to be laid at the door of Thurrock Council:

  • The bin area in the block has been poorly maintained which was a contributory factor in the fire.
  • The fire alarm system in the block was faulty with residents saying they only became aware of the fire when they smelt and saw smoke coming out of the bin chute.
  • A number of the families left without power were not properly supported by Thurrock Council, were not offered alternative accommodation and had to stay in their flats without power.
  • As a result of the power being knocked out, a number of residents said they ended up with freezers full of rapidly thawing food that would inevitably spoil and have to be disposed of.
  • To all intents and purposes, it would appear that the response of Thurrock Council to the fire and its aftermath was shambolic and evidence of the fact that they do not have a properly worked out contingency plan to deal with incidents like this.

It was down to the Grays Riverside ward councillor, Cllr. Martin Kerin, to step in and do what he could to help out residents in a very difficult and trying situation. This is what he had to say: “However, it shouldn’t have to take me doing this to get responses for my residents. The council should be sending officers door-to-door to check on everyone!”

Although residents suffered a lot of disruption and inconvenience as a result of the fire and the shambolic response of Thurrock Council in the aftermath, in the scale of things, this was a relatively minor incident. The big worry is what could happen with a major fire in a tower block if the council don’t get their act together on a) the basics of maintaining the blocks they have a responsibility for and b) develop a robust contingency plan to deal with any fires and their aftermath. The situation as it currently stands is simply unacceptable.

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