London fire singes British politics, death toll expected to rise to 80
Police said it may not be possible to identify some of the bodies, while the list of those missing based on accounts of friends and survivors reached around 80 people, including the 30 confirmed dead.world Updated: Jun 19, 2017 09:29 IST
The Theresa May government on Friday was grappling with the aftermath of Wednesday’s blaze at Grenfell Tower, amid rising anger among residents and demands by the Labour Party to acquire over 1,000 empty houses for those rendered homeless.
Police said it may not be possible to identify some of the bodies, while the list of those missing based on accounts of friends and survivors reached around 80 people, including the 30 confirmed dead. Fire officials were going through the building carefully amid fears that some charred floors may collapse.
The west London borough of Kensington and Chelsea ranks among the wealthiest areas in the UK, but also includes pockets that are among the most deprived, including the area around Grenfell Tower. The fire raised a series of questions over inequality, the “prettification” of the wealthy borough, fire safety standards and local council’s approach to the deprived area.
The blaze also singed politics as leading lights visiting the area faced ire of residents. Prime Minister May faced much criticism for meeting fire brigade and police officials at the disaster site, but not victims. London mayor Sadiq Khan was heckled, as leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadson, who was asked: “Where is Theresa May?”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for homes to be “requisitioned if necessary” in order to house those left homeless by the disaster: “It is hardly acceptable that in London you have luxury buildings and luxury flats kept empty, as land banks for the future, while the homeless and the poor look for somewhere to live.”
Official data suggests that the Kensington and Chelsea borough has more empty properties than any other borough in the capital, numbering nearly 1,400 properties classified as “long-term vacant” — empty for more than six months.
Gavin Barwell, former housing minister and now May’s chief of staff, came under focus for alleged inaction on an inquiry report into a similar fire in London. Labour MP David Lammy alleged the incident amounted to “corporate manslaughter”.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince William visited the disaster site after Communities secretary Sajid Javid’s visit, who promised re-housing the victims, and a thorough inquiry into the incident after experts and residents had cautioned the tower was a fire hazard.