Sat, Jun 17, 2017 - Page 1 News List

London fire toll at least 30, but dozens missing

AFP, LONDON

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, left, yesterday meets firefighters during a visit to the Westway Sports Centre in London, which is providing temporary shelter for those who have been made homeless by the fire at Grenfell Tower.

Photo: AP

At least 30 people have been confirmed killed and dozens more are feared dead in the London tower block fire, police said yesterday, as firefighters continued searching for bodies amid outrage over the use of cladding blamed for spreading the flames.

“We know that at least 30 people have died as a result of this fire... I do believe the number will increase,” Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy told reporters in front of the charred Grenfell Tower.

Cundy said police had started a criminal investigation, but there was nothing to suggest “that the fire had been started deliberately.”

He also said the last flames had finally been put out, two days after the fire broke out overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday in the 24-story tower in a working-class enclave of the wealthy London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

More than 70 people are unaccounted for, according to media reports, although it was not known whether some of those were among the bodies recovered so far.

Police have warned some of the victims might never be identified because of the state of the remains.

Cundy said one of the victims was a person who died in hospital. Twenty-four injured survivors are still being treated, 12 of them in critical condition.

Firefighters were using drones and sniffer dogs to search the building, saying that some of the upper floors are still inaccessible to humans because of concerns about the stability of the structure.

The area surrounding the council-owned tower has been plastered by desperate relatives with pictures of the missing, from grandparents to young children, and large numbers of volunteers were assisting the survivors.

Queen Elizabeth II and her grandson, Prince William, visited a community center where some of the survivors are being housed, as anger grew among local residents about allegations that fire safety concerns were ignored for years.

The British government has ordered a judge-led inquiry into the disaster, which is under pressure to act quickly.

“Something’s gone wrong here, something’s gone drastically wrong,” British Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid told BBC radio.

Javid said inspections of similar buildings had been ordered, with particular attention to the modern cladding used to beautify and add an insulation layer to aging concrete and steel structures.

“We need to do whatever it takes to make people that live in those properties safe — that’s either make the properties safe or find some other accommodation, it has to be done,” he said, adding that survivors from the tower would be rehoused in the local area.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for houses in the area to be “requisitioned” for survivors.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has come under criticism for not meeting residents when she visited the site on Thursday to talk with emergency workers.

She yesterday met with injured survivors in hospital.

Locals yelled questions at London Mayor Sadiq Khan when he walked through the neighborhood yesterday.

“How many children died? What are you going to do about it?” a young boy asked Khan, as the mayor tried to stop tensions rising further.

One of the victims was named as Mohammed Alhajali, a 23-year-old Syrian refugee, who traveled to Britain in 2014 with his brother.

“Mohammed undertook a dangerous journey to flee war and death in Syria, only to meet it here in the UK, in his own home,” the Syrian Solidarity Campaign said in a statement.

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