Saturday 22 July 2017

Council chief resigns over Grenfell Tower fire amid fears toxic gas behind deaths of many in tragic blaze

A protester holds up a sign asking for ‘Justice for Grenfell’ following the deadly fire at Grenfell Tower. Photo: Getty
A protester holds up a sign asking for ‘Justice for Grenfell’ following the deadly fire at Grenfell Tower. Photo: Getty
WAKING TO A NIGHTMARE: Fire-fighters’ attempts to damp down the blaze were to no effect as the flames engulfed Grenfell Tower in west London. Photo: Rick Finder/PA
Grenfell Tower following the fire Photo: REUTERS/Hannah McKay
GRIM TASK: Members of the emergency services work on the middle floors of the charred remains of the Grenfell Tower block in Kensington, west London, following the devastating fire. Photo: Tolga Akmen/Getty

Press Association reporters

The chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council has quit after a barrage of criticism for its response to the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.

Nicholas Holgate said the Communities and Local Government Secretary had "required the leader of the council to seek my resignation" on Tuesday.

He added in a statement that he would have been a "distraction" if he had stayed in his post after the "heart-breaking tragedy", which left at least 79 feared dead.

Mr Holgate said: "Serving the families so desperately affected by the heart-breaking tragedy at Grenfell Tower remains the highest priority of the council."

He said there is a "huge amount" still to do for the victims "in very challenging circumstances" and added: "If I stayed in post, my presence would be a distraction."

Council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown said he accepted the resignation "with great regret" and added that "the council will now need to work in a new way with different partners to take this forward".

There has been a lot of anger over the official response to the deadly blaze from survivors and victims' families.

Theresa May has apologised for the failures by local and national government in reacting to the tragedy and will address the Commons on Thursday.

A firefighter looks at floral tributes left near the scene. Photo: PA
A firefighter looks at floral tributes left near the scene. Photo: PA

It came as inquests were opened and adjourned at Westminster Coroner's Court into the deaths of five victims, with a married couple officially named as among the dead.

Omar Belkadi, 32, died from inhaling fire fumes, while his wife, Farah Hamdan, 31, was killed by smoke inhalation.

They lived on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower with their daughters Malek, seven, Tazmin, six, and Leena, just six months old.

The two eldest daughters were found in hospital by family members but the fate of their youngest girl remains unknown.

Abufars Ibrahim, 39, died of multiple injuries, while Anthony Disson, 65, and a 52-year-old woman, Khadija Khalloufi, both died from inhalation of fire fumes.

A highly toxic gas released by insulation on the outside of the building may have contributed to deaths.

The Berkeley Group has confirmed flats in the building are in the process of being sold for former Grenfell residents Photo: Berkeley Group
The Berkeley Group has confirmed flats in the building are in the process of being sold for former Grenfell residents Photo: Berkeley Group

The boards, fitted during a refurbishment of the tower, could have produced enough deadly hydrogen cyanide to fill every flat, it has been reported.

Richard Hull, professor of chemistry and fire science at the University of Central Lancashire, told Sky News: "The outside wall of the building had 150mm of PIR foam (fitted), and once the fire had spread to that every flat would have its own source of PIR foam, which would have produced enough hydrogen cyanide to kill all the people in that flat."

Manufacturer Celotex stated that the insulation would have released "toxic gases" if it caught fire.

King's College Hospital confirmed to Sky News that three of its 12 Grenfell patients were treated with the hydrogen cyanide antidote Cyanokit.

The renovation works were inspected 16 times by Kensington and Chelsea council, it has been reported.

Inspections were spread over almost two years during the £10 million project between 2014 and 2016, according to the Guardian.

Judith Blakeman, a Labour councillor who represents the Grenfell residents, told the paper: "This raises the question of whether the building regulations officers were sufficiently competent and did they know what they were looking at."

Earlier on Wednesday a funeral for 23-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammad Alhajali, the first victim to be identified, was attended by his family and London mayor Sadiq Khan.

It was also announced that 68 flats around 1.5 miles from Grenfell tower in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea had been purchased by the City of London Corporation in a deal brokered by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

An independent public advocate to help bereaved families after major disasters was announced in the Queen's Speech the same day.

The speech confirmed plans for a public inquiry into the tragedy and a new strategy for resilience in major disasters could include a Civil Disaster Reaction Taskforce to help at times of emergency, and an independent advocate will support those affected and help them at inquests.

The Grenfell Tower Response Team said 249 households are in emergency accommodation in hotels and £675,000 has been handed out to families affected by the disaster.

Press Association

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in World News