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Lawyer: Inquiry must see if racism a factor in London blaze

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LONDON — The inquiry into Britain’s Grenfell Tower fire should consider whether racism contributed to the deaths of 72 people in the blaze, a lawyer for survivors said Tuesday.

Imran Khan said it’s “vital … that race, religion and social class are considered” by the judge-led inquiry.

The inquiry is investigating causes of the June 2017 high-rise blaze to prevent future tragedies. But some survivors want a wider scope. They accuse officials of ignoring safety concerns because the public-housing block was home to largely to immigrant and working-class residents.

Fire engulfs Grenfell Tower, a residential tower block on June 14, 2017 in west London. The massive fire ripped through the 27-storey apartment block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday, trapping residents inside as 200 firefighters battled the blaze. Police and fire services attempted to evacuate the concrete block and said ‘a number of people are being treated for a range of injuries’, including at least two for smoke inhalation. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Khan, who represents some of the bereaved and survivors, said that unless race and class are considered, “we will be putting at risk the lives of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people from black and ethnic minority communities who are over-represented in high-rise blocks across Britain.”

Expert reports commissioned by the inquiry have said that a 2016 refurbishment that added flammable external cladding to the tower helped the braze spread from a four-floor apartment to engulf the building.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 15: A hose continues to douse the fire at Grenfell Tower on June 15, 2017 in London, England. At least 17 people have been confirmed dead and dozens missing, after the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road was engulfed in flames in the early hours of June 14. The number of fatalities are expected to rise. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

A lawyer for another group of survivors, Danny Friedman, said the refurbishment had turned the building into a “death trap.”

The inquiry will hear from companies involved in the refurbishment and the management company that oversaw the tower. In opening statements, they urged the inquiry not to rush to judgment.

Arconic, a company that supplied aluminum cladding panels to Grenfell, said the cladding was “at most, a contributing feature to the fire.”

“The panels did not render inevitable the catastrophe which ensued,” the company said.

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