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Grenfell survivor: time to reflect and make sure the world is still listening

People outside St Helen's Church, North Kensington, ahead of a Grenfell Tower fire Memorial Service to mark one year since the blaze, which claimed 72 lives. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 14, 2018. Thursday marks 12 months since a small kitchen fire in the high-rise turned into the most deadly domestic blaze since the Second World War. See PA story MEMORIAL Grenfell. Photo credit should read: David Meirzoeff/PA Wire

By Jack Hardy and Jemma Crew, Press Association

The anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire is an opportunity to "make sure that the world is still listening" so such a tragedy never happens again, a survivor has said.

Antonio Roncolato, a former resident of the 10th floor of the west London high-rise block, called for a day of reflection and support as the nation prepares to mark one year since the blaze.

But the 58-year-old also expressed frustration at a litany of promises broken by authorities and said he was still in temporary accommodation.

A minute's silence is to take place across the country at midday, with survivors and bereaved families expected to gather at the foot of the covered 24-storey site to remember the 72 dead.

On Wednesday night, Grenfell Tower was among a dozen buildings illuminated in green as a sign of respect, along with Downing Street and the London Eye.

Near the base of the ruined block in west Kensington on Thursday morning, Mr Roncolato told the Press Association: "Today is a very important day. We have to remember what has happened - I am very lucky and fortunate to be alive.

"My thoughts are all the time with people that are no longer with us but mainly with the families of those people because their wounds are very much open and very painful.

"Today is a time to reflect and to raise further awareness and make sure that the world is still listening because we don't want this to happen ever again."

June 14 also marks the deadline the council set itself to rehouse all those displaced by the deadly inferno.

However 42 households from the block remain in hotels, while 52 are in temporary accommodation and 83 in permanent new homes. A further 26 are either in serviced apartments or staying with family.

Mr Roncolato said he had been assessed by the council's housing department and wants to move nearer family in the south of the borough.

He continued: "The council said yes, we will rehouse you there, but it will take a bit more time than expected.

"All the promises and work the local authority and Government said - we should all have been rehoused a long, long time ago, permanently rehoused.

"It hasn't happened. We never asked for these promises."

Exactly a year on from the blaze, the hollowed skeleton of Grenfell Tower is cloaked in white scaffolding and topped with tributes designed by those affected.

Banners bearing the giant green hearts which have become synonymous with the disaster can be seen for miles, alongside the slogan: "Grenfell: Forever in our hearts."

Lampposts and zebra crossings throughout the neighbourhood have been festooned with green fabric, while a giant floral heart greeted commuters at nearby Latimer Road station.

The wall of handwritten tributes - last year a desperate mesh of missing posters - is now home to carefully organised shrines to the victims, lined by plant beds.

Mr Roncolato went on: "Grenfell Tower, had it been up to me and many other residents, it would not have been covered up the way it is, but we understand that it is very stressful to look at it continuously for the local community.

"Had it not been covered, if you could see the tower and the way it is burnt, it would have been a constant reminder of what took place that night."

Landmarks were lit green from 12.54am - the time of the first 999 call reporting a fire.

A vigil took place at a church near the block, with the names of the 72 victims read out at 1.30am.

The display is one of a series of commemorations and vigils taking place this week as the public inquiry takes a step back.

From 11am, there will be a service of remembrance at St Helen's Church, organised by campaign group Relative Justice Humanity for Grenfell.

Clarrie Mendy, who lost two family members in the fire and organised the anniversary event, said the names of the 72 victims would be read out, while doves will be released outside the church.

She said: "It's a service of healing, community, inclusivity and solidarity, to know we are not alone."

They will be giving out 400 white roses which people will able to carry on their way to the tower afterwards.

As well as the minute's silence, a community mosaic is to be unveiled, while wreaths will be laid and candles lit.

In the afternoon, the community is expected to congregate at the nearby "Wall of Truth" ahead of a silent march which will set off around 7pm.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will join the dignified gathering, which has taken place every month since the fire.

Elizabeth Campbell, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, said the authority's thoughts are with bereaved families, victims and the survivors of the disaster.

"It will be a difficult day for the community, with poignant moments to remember those that lost their lives a year ago," she said.

"I respect the wishes of the families involved, and the wishes of the community who have organised a series of commemorative events across the area. So I am only attending events I have been invited to."

The Gibraltar Governor also tweeted about the anniversary, he said, "As Gibraltar reflects on the horrors of the Grenfell Tower Fire, we all reaffirm our commitment that those that died and suffered in the disaster will forever be in our hearts. We bless them all. #GrenfellTower"

Pic by David Meirzoeff/PA Wire

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