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Feature: One year on, London remembers victims of Grenfell Tower fire
Last Updated: 2018-06-15 11:25 | Xinhua
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Survivors and relatives take part in a silent march in Ladbroke Grove, West London, Britain, June 14, 2018. More than 200 survivors were allowed back inside Grenfell Tower in London on Thursday to help them comprehend the scale of the disaster as the British capital marked the first anniversary of the deadly fire. A total of 223 people escaped the blaze a year ago, while 72 were killed. (Xinhua/Stephen Chung)

London fell silent on Thursday as the British capital paid tribute to the victims of one of the biggest fire tragedies in Britain since World War II -- the fire that engulfed the Grenfell Tower high-rise apartment block.

There was a 72-second silence, the release of white doves, and a solemn remembrance service at St Helens Church in North Kensington for the 72 people who died in the tragedy on June 14, 2017.

At a memorial service held close to what used to be Grenfell Tower, the names of each victim were read out.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who laid flowers at the scene, said London "stands shoulder to shoulder" with the Grenfell community.

"Today is about remembering the 72 lives so tragically lost in the Grenfell Tower fire a year ago, innocent victims young and old, children, parents, grandparents, friends and loved ones as well as all those injured and affected. Londoners will never forget the horror and disbelief on waking up to the shocking news," he said.

The tower, now a burned out shell, was draped in a green cover, the color adopted by Grenfell survivor groups, with a large heart-shaped emblem at the top, with the message "Grenfell, forever in our hearts".

Green balloons were released from the top of tower, drifting into the sky above London.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, who were on a royal visit to open a new bridge across the River Mersey in Cheshire, also paused to observe the silence.

The Queen was represented at the Grenfell events in London by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. Heir to the British throne Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, also stood silent in Cork during an official visit to the Irish Republic.

In Russia, members of the England football team also observed the silent tribute.

A number of buildings across London were floodlit in green at the precise moment the fire broke out, starting as a small kitchen blaze but quickly spreading to upper floors of the 24-storey building, trapping families.

Emotions ran high as people who had lost family members, or their own homes in the fire, marched to Grenfell Tower.

Helen Hailu, who lost her family members in the fire, told Xinhua she hopes this kind of tragedy will never happen again.

"I am just here to show my respect to them. People thought they were safe at home, but this happened," she said. "That kind of pain will never be gone."

Sara Lukic, in her 20s, told Xinhua she works in the neighborhood of the tower and can see the sad building every day. She accused the government and council of doing little to help the survivors.

"After one year there are still so many people living in hotels and cannot have their own home," she said.

According to the Kensington and Chelsea Council, among the 120 households in Grenfell, 52 households are in temporary accommodation and 83 are in permanent homes. Another 68 are in "emergency" accommodation -- 42 in hotels, 22 in serviced apartments, and four staying with family or friends.

Tony Arbour, chairman of the London Assembly, said: "We do not want to see another event so tragic in our great city. Today, of all days, we stand together with the loved ones of the 72 lost and the people of North Kensington."

Arbour said: "One year on from the tragic events at Grenfell, we are changed. Our priorities have shifted slightly. Our understanding of the circumstances of others has increased. And we are all much more aware of the devastation a fire can cause. Those who lived in the building and lost precious loved ones will need our support for the rest of their lives."

An official public inquiry into the tragedy is currently underway in London.

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