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Formal public inquiry into Grenfell Tower fire to begin on Thursday

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Just one in 50 social housing tower blocks has a sprinkler system a probe has found

The inquiry will begin with Chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick giving an opening statement at a central London hotel where victims' relatives and survivors can attend.

"The inquiry cannot undo any of that, but it can and will provide answers to how a disaster of this kind could happen in 21st Century London".

A minute's silence was held at the beginning as a mark of respect for those who died and those whose lives were changed by the loss of family and friends.

Addressing the anger from this community, Moore-Bick stated he would "not shrink" from making recommendations based on his findings "simply because someone else may consider that they form the basis of civil or criminal liability".

Sir Martin added that he will publish a list of issues that the inquiry will investigate, and though the list will form the basis of the inquiry, it is not an "exhaustive" list of all possible avenues. An interim report is due in April next year.

The probe will examine how the fire started, regulations of high-rise buildings, and the actions of Kensington and Chelsea Council.

The process of gathering evidence had already begun, Moore-Bick said, but many potential witnesses were still to be interviewed and many thousands of documents to be reviewed. "The scale of the task is enormous", the judge said. "If necessary", he said, "I shall not hesitate to make use of it".

The inquiry will be broken down into two phases.

Grenfell Tower's owners and managers were widely criticised after the June blaze because they had allowed a refurbishment using flammable cladding which helped the flames spread. It will also look at whether residents' warnings were ignored.

The inquiry into the horrific blaze will be headed by Sir Martin Moor-Bick.

"Our main concern is that the victims and the residents, and the people that lived in the surrounding blocks, is that their concerns are listened to", Nancy Collins, a lawyer for some of the survivors, told BBC television.

The former Court of Appeal judge will not take questions following the hearing, which is expected to last around 45 minutes. Labour MP for Kensington Emma Dent Coad said the community needed someone they could trust, rather than a "technocrat" who lacked "credibility".

Speaking to reporters outside the hotel, she said that "sitting in a ballroom dripping with chandeliers says it all, actually, that we are from a different world and we are going to do this for you, little people".

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