Monday 24 July 2017

Grenfell Tower protesters storm local town hall over deadly London blaze

Demonstrators crowd onto a staircase as they enter Kensington Town Hall, during a protest following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
Demonstrators crowd onto a staircase as they enter Kensington Town Hall, during a protest following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
A demonstrator bangs on a glass door at Kensington Town Hall, during a protest following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Protesters chanting "we want justice" stormed a local town hall in London on Friday after a deadly fire at a block of flats killed at least 30 people.

The protesters made their way through an automatic door at the local Kensington and Chelsea town hall.

As the protesters sought to gain entry to an upper floor, police tried to bar their way. A scuffle broke out. The protesters chanted "We want justice" and "bring them out".

Earlier Theresa May faced cries of "coward" and "shame on you" as she returned to Kensington to meet Grenfell Tower disaster victims.

The Prime Minister met the group of victims, residents, volunteers and community leaders at St Clement's Church close to the scene of the horrific blaze shortly before 5pm.

There was a large police presence which had to hold back an angry crowd outside the church.

One woman wept saying it was because the Prime Minister declined to speak to anyone outside the meeting which lasted less than hour.

Police broke up a scuffle between members of the crowd as the Mrs May's car drove off.

Extensive damage is seen to the Grenfell Tower block which was destroyed in a disastrous fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Extensive damage is seen to the Grenfell Tower block which was destroyed in a disastrous fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Elsewhere there was more public fury as hundreds of protesters surrounded Kensington Town Hall demanding answers.

Scores of demonstrators surged towards the building's entrance and scuffles broke out outside as organisers appealed for calm.

Downing Street also announced a £5 million fund for emergency supplies, food and clothing.

At least 30 people have died but the death toll is expected to rise further with more than 70 people in total still believed to be unaccounted for.

Earlier in the day Mrs May visited survivors in hospital, as allies defended her against claims that she was failing to engage with those affected by the tragedy.

Mrs May spent almost an hour speaking to patients and staff at London's Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, a day after visiting the scene of the blaze in west London to talk to firefighters, police and other emergency workers.

In written statement issued after the meeting in Kensington Mrs May said: "The individual stories I heard this morning at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital were horrific. I spoke with people who ran from the fire in only the clothes they were wearing.

"They have been left with nothing - no bank cards, no money, no means of caring for their children or relatives. One woman told me she had escaped in only her top and underwear.

"The package of support I'm announcing today is to give the victims the immediate support they need to care for themselves and for loved ones. We will continue to look at what more needs to be done.

"Everyone affected by this tragedy needs reassurance that the Government is there for them at this terrible time - and that is what I am determined to provide."

The current death toll from the tragedy reached 30 on Friday, with dozens more missing feared dead.

It came as local authority the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) said displaced survivors face being moved away from friends and family to other parts of London after the fire which left the tower uninhabitable.

Mrs May's visits followed one by the Queen and the Duke of Cambridge, who met volunteers and those who had lost everything.

Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy confirmed the new death toll as he spoke near the scene of the devastating blaze, warning that he expected the death toll to rise further.

More than 70 people are believed to be unaccounted for since the blaze, which police fear was so devastating that some victims may never be identified.

He said: "The building itself is in a very hazardous state. It is going to take a period of time for our specialists, both from the police and from the London Fire Brigade, to fully search that building to make sure we locate and recover everybody that has sadly perished in that fire. We will be doing that as swiftly as we can."

An investigation led by a senior detective from Scotland Yard's homicide and major crime command is under way with calls for "corporate manslaughter" arrests to be made.

Mr Cundy vowed police "will get to the answer of what has happened and why", adding: "If criminal offences have been committed it is us who will investigate that."

Twenty-four people are being treated in hospital, including 12 who are in critical care, he added.

Fire crews were again using water to damp down the high-rise building as they began a third day of picking through the debris.

The streets around the tower block in north Kensington are plastered with posters begging for information about those who were in the building.

RBKC said 110 households had been given temporary accommodation by Friday morning, and added that it was working to find more permanent homes.

But the authority's latest statement said: "While we will try do our upmost (sic) to ensure those affected remain in or near the borough, given the number of households involved, it is possible the council will have to explore housing options that may become available in other parts of the capital."

Housing Minister Alok Sharma had told MPs on Thursday that the Government guaranteed "that every single family" from the tower will be rehoused in the local area.

It came as a second victim of the disaster was named as 24-year-old artist Khadija Saye.

Ms Saye was in her flat on the 20th floor when the fire struck, with her mother Mary Mendy, who is thought to be in her 50s.

Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali, 23, was also killed in the fire.

A woman, who wiped away tears of frustration as she moved away from St Clement's Church, said: "Everyone has lost everything and no one is doing nothing. This is our town."

Another man, who did not give his name, told police: "It's not your fault, she shouldn't have come.

"What did she expect was going to happen."

He added: "What did she bring, what useful things did she bring? The tower block is more strong and stable than that woman's government."

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