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My glance back at Grenfell fire will haunt me for life, says survivor Nicholas Burton

By Joe Nerssessian

A Grenfell Tower survivor who escaped from the 19th floor of the burning building has said he will be haunted for life by the sight of the raging fire.

Nicholas Burton (50) had lived in the tower block since 1984 and was rescued with his sick wife by firefighters around two-and-a-half hours after the blaze began.

He has since met with Prime Minister Theresa May three times and worked with fellow survivors to ensure victims are receiving enough information.

The former catering manager remains in a hotel room six weeks on from the blaze and hit out at the council's "undignified" response, accusing Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council of treating residents like the "undeserving poor".

Recounting the night of the fire, he said those outside the block had been traumatised by watching their friends and neighbours scream for help.

He said: "I'm glad that I came down the tower, but I'd be horrified if I'd actually had to watch the tower being on fire.

"When the fire brigade got me out, I just looked back once and that one vision will stay in my brain forever.

"To actually sit there and watch your loved ones, your friends and neighbours, it must have been horrendous."

At least 80 people died after a fire tore through the 24-storey tower block in North Kensington, with hundreds more left without a home.

Mr Burton, whose wife remains in hospital, claimed he could have rehoused everyone within 48 hours of the tragedy as he called for the council to temporarily acquire empty flats within the area.

He said: "The truth is that most of the people in the tower were professional people.

"They worked all their lives. There's leaseholders, people who bought their flats, people from all sorts of backgrounds and ethnicity, but they still treat us as master and servant.

"I've been round to all the estate agents. There's thousands of flats and houses in the borough. But we're the undeserving, they are not going to put their hand in their pocket and get us a short-term lease for six months.

"I could have done it in 48 hours. But six weeks down the line, we're still in the hotels looking for ex-council flats. Those are the kinds of conversations that we're having and we're having to do all the work, we're having to chase. It's not really dignified."

Mr Burton also hit out at the Government inquiry into the blaze and compared it to controversial long-running inquiries into the Hillsborough tragedy and Bloody Sunday.

He said: "It's just a blanket they put over. The Government use it to stay in power. I spoke to the judge. I said, all due respect, sir, you're 70 years old, if this was the Hillsborough, you'd be 98 now. So are you going to be in it for the long run?

"That took 28 years, the Savile inquiry for Bloody Sunday was 1972. That took 30 years. There's all these inquiries, but it's just for the Government to say we're doing something."

Mr Burton was speaking at Queens Park Rangers Football Club, whose stadium is a mile from the tower block.

The club announced a fundraising match between celebrities and ex-professionals was being organised. It will take place at the stadium on September 2.

Belfast Telegraph

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