Saturday 21 April 2018

First pictures from inside Grenfell Tower as number of people feared dead rises above 58

Handout picture released by the Metropolitan Police showing the inside of the Grenfell Tower in London after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building
Handout picture released by the Metropolitan Police showing the inside of the Grenfell Tower in London after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The investigations at Grenfell Tower have led police to believe the "number of people missing, but as yet unaccounted for" has risen from 58, the Metropolitan Police said.

Releasing the first images from inside the burnt-out building, Commander Stuart Cundy said some of the victims may never be identified.

He said: "The conditions due to the fire damage verge on indescribable, which is why this will be such a lengthy operation taking weeks to complete.

"We must also prepare people for the terrible reality that some people may not be identified due to the intensity of the fire."

Mr Cundy added: "Sadly that work leads me to believe that the number of people missing, but as yet unaccounted for has risen from yesterday's figure of 58."

Releasing a tranche of footage showing the aftermath of the blaze, Mr Cundy said: "Today, police teams continue their support to families, and make enquiries to cross check the number of those missing.

"I have always said I will be accurate about what I know, so the next figure of those presumed dead and missing will be released tomorrow, Monday 19 June. The figure will be higher but I do not wish to speculate on that number today."

The news came as the Government announced those left homeless by the fire will be given at least £5,500 from an emergency fund.

Residents will be given £500 in cash followed by a bank payment for the rest from Monday and will come from the £5 million fund announced by Theresa May on Friday.

The Prime Minister insisted the Government was doing everything possible to help those caught up in the tragedy.

Residents who met Mrs May in Downing Street over the weekend said while they welcomed the funding they had not been consulted before the announcement was made.

The presumed death toll from the London tower block inferno jumped to 58 on Saturday
The presumed death toll from the London tower block inferno jumped to 58 on Saturday

They said: "We naturally welcome funds for those in need, though this does show once more the tendency to sideline residents' views.

"At No 10 yesterday, the Prime Minister assured the group that from now on residents would be consulted on a coordinated relief effort. This has not happened with these funds."

The move came as the official response to the crisis drew fresh condemnation from residents and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

In a statement to the Press Association, residents criticised Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation for its reaction to the disaster.

The burnt out remains of the Grenfell apartment tower are seen in North Kensington, London. Photo: REUTERS/Neil Hall
The burnt out remains of the Grenfell apartment tower are seen in North Kensington, London. Photo: REUTERS/Neil Hall

The group said: "In our meeting at Downing Street, we explained to the Prime Minister the anger of all residents towards the management of the estate over a long period of time, paving the way to this tragedy.

"With the exception of very few junior officers, the estate managers have been invisible in the aftermath of the tragedy."

Mr Khan said the local community was "frustrated" and "angry" in the wake of the blaze after he attended a church service near the tower block in west London.

His remarks came as Nick Paget-Brown, the Tory leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, insisted officials were on the ground "very soon" after the fire broke out following criticism from Mrs May, who said the support given to residents was "not good enough".

Read More: Grenfell Tower cladding is banned in the UK, Chancellor reveals

He also sidestepped questions over whether he felt guilty about the tragedy, telling BBC Radio 4's The World At One: "I feel terrible about the whole position we find ourselves in. All I'm keen to say is there is an effective, co-ordinated relief effort on the ground and I'm sorry if people haven't seen that."

Speaking outside St Clement's Church, Mr Khan said: "There is a feeling from the community that they have been treated badly because some of them are poor.

"The tragedy we're seeing is because of the consequences of mistakes and neglect from politicians, from the council and from the Government."

Meanwhile, a company involved in the renovation of the tower was forced to deny cladding on the building was banned in the UK after comments made by Chancellor Philip Hammond.

It was reported that the material used in the cladding covering Grenfell was Reynobond PE - a cheaper, more flammable version of two available options.

Appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Hammond said: "My understanding is the cladding in question, this flammable cladding which is banned in Europe and the US, is also banned here."

John Cowley, managing director of CEP Architectural Facades, which produced rainscreen panels and windows for Grenfell Tower's cladding sub-contractor Harley Facades Ltd, said: "Reynobond PE is not banned in the UK.

"Current building regulations allow its use in both low-rise and high-rise structures.

"The key question now is whether the overall design of the building's complete exterior was properly tested and subsequently signed off by the relevant authorities including the fire officer, building compliance officer and architect before commencement of the project."

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