Theresa May has reflected on her “absolutely shocking” first visit to Grenfell Tower, as she offered a personal apology for not meeting 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 conversations with firefighters on June 14 last year had brought home the scale of the disaster.
The decision not to immediately visit survivors and bereaved relatives provoked a furious backlash – one which Mrs May said this week she will “always regret”.
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 her comments from 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 continued: “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.
The Prime Minister 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.”