Socialist Worker

Grenfell survivor speaks out - ‘Some of us tried to raise the alarm before the fire’

Antonio Roncalato escaped from Grenfell Tower on 14 June last year. He spoke to Socialist Worker about how survivors have been failed in the aftermath of the fire

Issue No. 2608

Authorities ignored safety warnings over Grenfell in the run-up to the fire

Authorities ignored safety warnings over Grenfell in the run-up to the fire (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Grenfell survivor Antonio Roncalato found out during the inquiry into the fire that he was the penultimate person to be evacuated from the building.

“Because of the procedure I was told to stay in place like so many others,” he told Socialist Worker. “It was revoked at around quarter to three. I called back again and they told me to get out.”

Despite promises from the Tories about rehousing people in the aftermath of the fire, Antonio still hasn’t been permanently rehoused.

“I was in a hotel until February this year,” he said. “Since 2 February I moved into a flat—temporary accommodation.

“It’s temporary so I cannot do anything there. It’s furnished but it’s not my identity. I have to wait longer for permanent accommodation.

“The next step is for them to come up with a flat. They had said that everyone would be rehoused by June of this year, but obviously I don’t believe these promises.

“They said this six or seven months ago.

“First they said three weeks, then they said before the beginning of the school year, then they said before Christmas, then Iftar, then June.”

Survivors have been watching the public inquiry into the fire with a large dose of scepticism.

“There’s more stuff coming out now—the relationships between the council, the tenant management organisation, Rydon and the other companies,” Antonio said.

“But it’s like passing on the buck from one to another. That’s what I was expecting to be honest.


Antonio survived the Grenfell fire - and says the inquiry must hold the guilty to account

Antonio survived the Grenfell fire - and says the inquiry must hold the guilty to account (Pic: Guy Smallman)

“If it’s not your fault, bring out the papers that prove it.

“And come and show your face and say, ‘We did this and this and this and it was approved’.

“Rydon ordered items from various companies, but they also passed on and subcontracted work.

“Ultimately, if you are the one in charge, you are the one who is responsible. You have to answer to the council and mainly to the residents.

“They are passing the buck continuously—the police and the public inquiry need to investigate this. It’s really shocking.”

Antonio said that the inquiry must point blame at those who are responsible for specific failings, otherwise it will be pointless.

“The windows were moved to be in line with the cladding,” said Antonio. “The way it was done created a chimney effect to entice the fire rather than to stop it.

“The inquiry is there to try and bring out the truth and go into the root of what happened.

“That means taking the cladding apart and seeing who provided it, who signed off on it.”

Another important part of the inquiry is examining the actions of the different parties before the fire.

“Edward Daffarn, one of our residents, was very much aware of what they were doing and got in touch with the council at various times,” Antonio said.

“They didn’t want to know—it was always denied. This has to be known, that some of us knew and tried to raise the alarm.”

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