IT is now almost a year since the Grenfell Tower fire, but emotions remain painfully raw for the families and friends of the dead, and the survivors.

So traumatic was the night of 14 June 2017, when the 24-story high-rise block in west London was engulfed by flames, so unthinkable were the last hours and minutes of life for the 72 victims that perished, it’s hard to say whether it will ever be possible for those affected to find peace and closure.

We got a sense of this overwhelming grief and pain as the public inquiry into the fire opened yesterday in London with tributes to six of the victims. Over the next two weeks relatives of all those who died will be given the chance to commemorate their loved ones.

After that will come two further, much longer phases of this painful but necessary process: the “what” and the “why”. The nature of some of the facts we already know – for example that residents’ warnings that the block was a fire hazard had been ignored for years – are reprehensible.

In the aftermath of the blaze we also saw a risible lack of action and empathy from many of the authorities supposed to be helping the survivors who had lost everything. Many remain without permanent homes.

Sadly, we can expect more shocking and disturbing truths to emerge in the weeks and months to come.

The inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick described the fire as the “greatest tragedy” to befall London since World War Two. It is hard to argue with this assessment.

The enormity of the task that lies ahead of him, meanwhile, is just as daunting. As well as a the fire itself, Grenfell has come to represent the growing inequalities at the heart of British society, the widespread feeling among many that it was the state, not just Kensington and Chelsea council, that let the victims down, that the interests of big business and the wealthy continue to be put before those of ordinary people, who remain voiceless. These issues – due to be tackled in the second phase of the inquiry - will be extremely difficult for Sir Martin to address. But he must somehow find a way a doing so that will answer the legitimate questions of the survivors and the grieving relatives.

And he must also tackle the “how”. How could Grenfell happen in the 21st century in the richest city in the world?

Local government, central government and the building industry must be held to account, and ministers – current and former - must not be allowed to hide from responsibility if they are shown to be culpable. Did austerity policies and a drive towards cutting health and safety “red tape” contribute?

Whatever the findings, Sir Martin must offer conclusions that will prevent another such tragedy. This must be a watershed moment. That would surely be the most fitting tribute to the 72 victims and their families.