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Mourners gather for Grenfell fire memorial six months after tragedy

Royal Family, prime minister among attendees

LONDON (CNN) - Family, friends and survivors on Thursday joined others remembering the victims of the Grenfell fire at a memorial service at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

Seventy-one people were killed when a blaze engulfed a residential tower block in North Kensington, west London, on June 14.

The ceremony, six months on from the fire, was attended by Prime Minister Theresa May, the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. It lasted just over an hour.

Members of the Kensington and Chelsea council, which was responsible for the management of the building, did not attend after mourners requested they stay away.

At the end of the service, a Grenfell banner was held aloft and carried out of the cathedral, followed by mourners, who held white roses and photographs of their loved ones.

"It was uplifting, but it was very sad as well," Nelissa Mendy, who lost her cousin at Grenfell, told CNN.

"There are still no words. I'm struggling for words but I'm really glad there's an acknowledgment. There's still a lot of pain and a lot of unanswered questions but the service itself was comforting if that's the right word.

"With those who were here today -- national leaders and people like that it was just, I guess, a recognition of national support for Grenfell, families, victims all the support workers.

"For those that still don't have closure -- this may have gone some way to try and help but ... I can't find the words."

A government-ordered inquiry into the fire is still underway and many of those who lost their homes remain in temporary accommodation.

According to a report published by the government, of the 395 households affected by the fire, 300 were living in hotels, 75 were in apartments, nine were living with friends and family on a temporary basis, and 11 had found new permanent accommodation by the end of September.

Speaking at the memorial, Bishop of Kensington, the Right Reverend Graham Tomlin, told the survivors and families of the victims that they had not been forgotten.

"As we come to the end of this difficult year, as we celebrate Christmas, as we move into a new year, nothing can remove the memory of that night, nor do we want to forget those dearly loved people who were lost," he said

'It's very, very hard'

About 1,500 people gathered inside the cathedral for the multi-faith ceremony that included performances from a number of groups close to Grenfell.

A prerecorded montage of voices from the local community was also played during the service.

"We were lost for words, we did not know what to do, how to react. I have never known anything like it in my life," one voice said.

Maria Jafari, whose father Ali Yawar Jafari, died at Grenfell, read a poem by 13th century poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi.

"It's very, very hard," Jafari told the UK Press Association. "Still she (my mother) cries, every day, every second when we are talking about our father, all the memories come out again.

"It's six months and it's still very hard for us. I wish nobody could have this in the whole life, in the whole world, I wish nobody would have to go through all these things."

'Criminal investigation'

Earlier on Thursday, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said it would be unlikely that the criminal investigation into the deadly blaze would be concluded until 2019.

Speaking to CNN's affiliate ITN, Dick said the investigation had gathered 30 million documents, identified thousands of physical exhibits, and had conducted thousands of interviews.

"We will move as quickly as we possibly can whilst doing a very, very thorough investigation -- using all the expertise that is available to us. We are working closely now with the Crown Prosecution Service and we will move as fast as we possibly can," she said.

"But I would be very surprised if our criminal investigation was finished, for example, by the end of the next calendar year."


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