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London fire: Queen, not PM May, taps into national mood

May faced criticism and worse for meeting officials instead of victims, while the Metropolitan police commander said the death toll “may increase” and “significant” recovery operation is likely to take weeks.

world Updated: Jun 17, 2017 20:45 IST
Queen Elizabeth II travels in a horse-drawn carriage on her way for the Queen's Birthday Parade.
Queen Elizabeth II travels in a horse-drawn carriage on her way for the Queen's Birthday Parade.(AFP)

Prime Minister Theresa May came in for trenchant criticism from angry victims of Grenfell Tower tragedy for allegedly being “cold as a fish” to it, but Queen Elizabeth II was hailed for reflecting the national mood on Saturday, her official birthday.

On television and on the streets near the Grenfell Tower, May faced criticism and worse for meeting officials instead of victims. Her aides, however, insisted that she was as horrified as anyone by the tragedy, in which police say 58 people are presumed dead, including the 30 already confirmed deaths.

The queen, who met victims and volunteers on Friday at the site of the blaze, celebrates two birthdays each year — her actual birthday on April 21 and her official birthday, usually on the second Saturday in June.

She said in her message on Saturday: “Today is traditionally a day of celebration. This year, however, it is difficult to escape a very sombre national mood. In recent months, the country has witnessed a succession of terrible tragedies.

“During recent visits in Manchester and London, I have been profoundly struck by the immediate inclination of people throughout the country to offer comfort and support to those in desperate need.

“Put to the test, the United Kingdom has been resolute in the face of adversity. United in our sadness, we are equally determined, without fear or favour, to support all those rebuilding lives so horribly affected by injury and loss,” she added.

Metropolitan police commander Stuart Cundy said the death toll “may increase” and that the “significant” recovery operation is likely to take weeks. “As soon as we can, we will locate and recover loved ones,” he said.

Meanwhile, May, stung by criticism, was scheduled to meet victims, volunteers and community leaders in Downing Street on Saturday afternoon, even as angry protests continued at the site and elsewhere in London.

May announced a £5 million package to help the victims, and promised to re-house most of them in the Kensington and Chelsea borough. A series of inquiries have been ordered into incident, as well as review of fire safety measures in similar multi-storey blocks in London and elsewhere.