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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

London fire: Toll in Grenfell Tower blaze rises to 17, no survivors expected

More than 200 firefighters worked through the night at London’s Grenfell Tower looking for survivors. Fire commissioner Dany Cotton said it will take weeks before the building is cleared and searched properly.

world Updated: Jun 15, 2017 17:17 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London

The death toll in Wednesday’s blaze in London’s 24-storey Grenfell Tower block of flats has risen to 17, the police said on Thursday, adding that the number is likely to rise, given the number of critically injured and the large number of residents still missing.

Prime Minister Theresa May made what has been described as a “private visit” to the neighbourhood , but faced anger and criticism for not meeting survivors and residents after she only spoke to the fire brigade and police.

Residents in the area said they had often raised concerns about fire safety in the building in the past but they allegedly fell on deaf ears. One resident said the official advice to “stay put” in flats in the event of fire may have led to more deaths.

The opposition Labour Party criticised the government for not acting on recommendations made in a report on a similar incident some years ago, calling for an investigation into the tragedy.

Labour MP David Lammy said: “This is the richest borough in our country treating its citizens in this way and we should call it what it is. It is corporate manslaughter. That’s what it is. And there should be arrests made, frankly. It is an outrage.

“Many of us across the country have been caught up in an election knocking on housing estate doors, travelling up to the top floors of tower blocks, and we know as politicians that the conditions in this country are unacceptable.

“We built buildings in the 70s. Those 70s buildings, many of them should be demolished. They have not got easy fire escapes. They have got no sprinklers. It is totally, totally unacceptable in Britain that this is allowed to happen and that people lose their lives in this way. People should be held to account.

Policing and fire minister Nick Hurd is scheduled to make a statement on the disaster in Parliament later in the day.

The London fire brigade said it did not expect to find survivors as firemen went through the building overnight, making slow progress because in some areas the fire was still burning. Officials have asked people not to donate clothes and toys due to the large number already collected.

The hundreds left homeless have been housed in nearby hotels and a sports centre, with many nearby residents also offering shelter. The survivors shared details of those missing on social media and elsewhere, as the scale of the disaster put council and other officials in under the scanner.

Queen Elizabeth issued a statement: “My thoughts and prayers are with those families who have lost loved ones in the Grenfell Tower fire and the many people who are still critically ill in hospital…It is also heartening to see the incredible generosity of community volunteers rallying to help those affected by this terrible event.”

First Published: Jun 15, 2017 16:07 IST