THE prime minister has said she will ‘always regret’ her response to the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower – which happened one year ago today.
The message comes after Theresa May reflected on her ‘absolutely shocking’ first visit to the west London block, after 72 people were killed there in a fire in the early hours of June 14, 2017.
The leader’s decision not to immediately visit survivors and bereaved relatives following the incident led to backlash, and she has now offered a personal apology to those affected.
In an interview with grassroots media group Grenfell Speaks, the prime minister said she was sorry for only talking to the emergency services in the hours after the fire.
She said it was conversations with firefighters on the day of the fire last year which brought home the scale of the disaster.
The Tory leader told Grenfell Speaks: ‘I think it was when I actually came to the site and saw the tower and heard directly from the firefighters that I realised how absolutely shocking – it was really shocking to see that building.
‘I began to hear more of the stories and more of the explanation of the absolute horror of what people had gone through.
‘I started to understand more, the depth of the tragedy.’
Echoing comments she made earlier in the week, she continued: ‘I didn’t, of course, on that first visit, meet members of the community or survivors and I’m sorry for not having met them then.’
Mrs May was booed and heckled during her subsequent trip to visit the North Kensington neighbourhood.
She said: ‘When I subsequently met victims in hospital and met survivors and residents and talked to them about those experiences over the following few days, I was struck by the dignity which they showed in the face of what had been something that had been life-changing for them.
‘They had lost loved ones, they had lost all their possessions, many of them – a truly horrific experience.’
She returned to St Clements Church on Monday evening to lay a wreath in memory of the 72 victims of the fire.
She said: ‘I hope people will be able to look back and say we have enabled people to find the truth and that – it took too long – but we did give them the support they needed.’
Mrs May’s comments come as the nation today looks back on the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, with a minute’s silence taking place at midday.
The 24-storey residential tower itself – alongside a number of others – has been illuminated to mark commemorations.
In Portsmouth and the surrounding areas, a number of fire stations have taken to social media to announce 24 hours of silence on their channels, beginning at 9.30pm last night.