Monday 23 October 2017

'It would be a miracle for anyone to be left alive' - London Grenfell Tower blaze death toll is now 17, but still expected to rise

  • Unknown numbers still in tower
  • 12 confirmed dead, police say death toll will rise
  • Theresa May promises 'full investigation' and visits the scene
  • Families appeal for information on their missing loved ones
  • 74 people treated in hospital, 18 critical
  • Fire crews still at scene
Smoke rises after a fire engulfed Grenfell Tower. Photo: Getty
Smoke rises after a fire engulfed Grenfell Tower. Photo: Getty
Prime Minister Theresa May visits the scene near Grenfell Tower in west London after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building (PA)
A photo taken by local resident Natalie Oxford shows flames coming from Grenfell Tower. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Singer Adele is pictured near the Grenfell Tower apartment block at Latimer Road in West London (Reuters)
Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May, speaks to police officers as she visits the scene of a tower block which was destroyed in a fire disaster, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
A firefighter investigates the remains of a flat. Photo: Rick Findler/PA
A woman cries as she tries to locate a missing relative. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A police officer helps to evacuate a local resident. Photo: REUTERS
The man is rescued by firefighters after being filmed praying and waving his jumper. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The death toll following a massive blaze at London's Grenfell Tower has risen to 17, but it is still expected to rise, according to Metropolitan Police.

There are still "unknown numbers" of bodies in Grenfell Tower following the devastating inferno, London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton has said.

The huge fire destroyed the block in north Kensington, west London, where flames could still be seen burning more than a day on from the disaster.

The commissioner told Sky News: "Tragically now we are not expecting to find anyone else alive. The severity and the heat of the fire would mean it is an absolute miracle for anyone to be left alive."

She said there are still "unknown numbers" of people in the building.

More than £1 million has been raised to help those affected as fire tore through the 24-storey building while volunteers and charities helped feed and shelter people who could not return to their homes overnight.

Ms Cotton said the upper floors of the building are still to be searched.

"Sadly we do anticipate the death toll will rise - we haven't done our searches of the top floors yet," she told reporters at the scene.

A senior detective, DCI Matt Bonner, has been appointed to lead the investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire, Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy confirmed this morning.

A wall of condolence was put up near the scene with photographs showing dozens of messages left for loved ones.

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Prime Minister Theresa May visits the scene near Grenfell Tower in west London after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building (PA)

Prime Minister Theresa May met with emergency services at the scene today.

Speaking earlier she promised a "proper investigation" after the building went up in flames early on Wednesday morning amid growing concerns about how the fire could have spread so rapidly.

Speaking in Downing Street, Mrs May said: "When it's possible to identify the cause of this fire, then of course there will be proper investigation and if there are any lessons to be learnt they will be, and action will be taken."

Singer Adele also visited the scene to meet with local people.

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Singer Adele is pictured near the Grenfell Tower apartment block at Latimer Road in West London (Reuters)

 

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A firefighter investigates the remains of a flat. Photo: Rick Findler/PA

Residents' groups have claimed they voiced concerns about the safety of the building, which had been recently refurbished, while those who escaped complained their fire alarms had not been set off by the blaze.

One focus for the investigation will be the building's cladding, which TV architect George Clarke said may have accelerated the blaze.

Mr Clarke, who lives locally and appears on Channel 4's Amazing Spaces, told BBC's Newsnight: " I saw those cladding panels, the cladding on the outside and the insulation was just peeling off, like you'd peel a banana.

"It was fully on fire. I could see the flames behind - there's a new cladding system put on the outsides that looks like a new skin, there's an air gap an insulation behind that, to me that looks like a fantastic chimney for the fire to rage around."

Grenfell Tower, which built in 1974, was recently refurbished at a cost of £8.6 million, with work completed in May last year.

Kensington and Chelsea Council admitted it had received complaints over the works, after a residents' action group said its warnings about safety had fallen on "deaf ears".

A blog post from Grenfell Action Group in November said "only a catastrophic event" would expose the concerns residents had.

Smoke and flames rise from a building on fire in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Metropolitan Police in London say they're continuing to evacuate people from a massive apartment fire in west London. The fire has been burning for more than three hours and stretches from the second to the 27th floor of the building.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Smoke and flames rise from a building on fire in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Metropolitan Police in London say they're continuing to evacuate people from a massive apartment fire in west London. The fire has been burning for more than three hours and stretches from the second to the 27th floor of the building.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Smoke and flames rise from a building on fire in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Metropolitan Police in London say they're continuing to evacuate people from a massive apartment fire in west London. The fire has been burning for more than three hours and stretches from the second to the 27th floor of the building.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Smoke and flames rise from a building on fire in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Metropolitan Police in London say they're continuing to evacuate people from a massive apartment fire in west London. The fire has been burning for more than three hours and stretches from the second to the 27th floor of the building.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Smoke and flames rise from a building on fire in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Metropolitan Police in London say they're continuing to evacuate people from a massive apartment fire in west London. The fire has been burning for more than three hours and stretches from the second to the 27th floor of the building.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Smoke and flames rise from a building on fire in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Metropolitan Police in London say they're continuing to evacuate people from a massive apartment fire in west London. The fire has been burning for more than three hours and stretches from the second to the 27th floor of the building.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A police officer holds a riot shield over a firefighter at a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Local resident Amanda Fernandez stands outside St Clement and St James Church, close to the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London which is on fire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals. See PA story FIRE Grenfell. Photo credit should read: Helen William/PA Wire
Student Tiago Etienne, 17, who witnessed scenes after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals. See PA story FIRE Grenfell. Photo credit should read: Helen William/PA Wire
A firefighter photographs damage after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower
Emergency services gather close to the scene after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals. See PA story FIRE Grenfell. Photo credit should read: Rick Findler/PA Wire
Emergency services close to the scene after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals. See PA story FIRE Grenfell. Photo credit should read: Rick Findler/PA Wire
Emergency services close to the scene after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals. See PA story FIRE Grenfell. Photo credit should read: Rick Findler/PA Wire
Emergency services close to the scene after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals. See PA story FIRE Grenfell. Photo credit should read: Rick Findler/PA Wire
A firefighter investigates a floor after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PA
Smoke billows from a fire that has engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals. See PA story FIRE Grenfell. Photo credit should read: Rick Findler/PA Wire
A man arrives with refreshments near a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
A man hands out refreshments near a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
A firefighter investigates a floor after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. (PA)
Turafat Yilma who was forced to flee burning Grenfell Tower with her young child has claimed their warnings that a refurbishment posed safety risks were ignored. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. Yilma, a 39-year-old resident on the building's seventh floor, was awoken by a call from her neighbour on the 17th floor telling her to escape. See PA story FIRE Grenfell Mother. Photo credit should read: Jack Hardy/PA Wire
A firefighter investigates a floor after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals. See PA story FIRE Grenfell. Photo credit should read: Rick Findler/PA Wire
A firefighter investigates a floor after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PA
A firefighter investigates a floor after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals. See PA story FIRE Grenfell. Photo credit should read: Rick Findler/PA Wire
A woman reacts near a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
People react near a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
People react near a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Firefighters direct jets of water onto a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Denise Bloomfield, 37, who was evacuated from a nearby flat, after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PA Wire
Local resident Georgina stands distraught on her balcony after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PA Wire
Yaz (no surname given) who is awaiting news of her friend who was caught up in a fire that engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals. See PA story FIRE Grenfell. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Smoke billows from a fire that has engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals. See PA story FIRE Grenfell. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
A local resident is carried to receive some medical aid at a community centre close to a fire that has engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals. See PA story FIRE Grenfell. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Debris on the ground from a fire that engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals. See PA story FIRE Grenfell. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Debris on the ground from a fire that engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals. See PA story FIRE Grenfell. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
A relief fund set up by local residents for those caught up in a fire that engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals. See PA story FIRE Grenfell. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Firefighters rest as they take a break in battling a massive fire that raged in a 27-floor high-rise apartment building in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Fire swept through a high-rise apartment building in west London early Wednesday, killing an unknown number of people and sending more than 50 people to area hospitals. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Firefighters stand amid debris in a childrens playground near a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
People look at smoke billowing from a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Two women sit on the grass after a tower block was severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
A woman speaks on a mobile phone near a tower block that was severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Emergency services gather close to the scene after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 14, 2017. More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals. See PA story FIRE Grenfell. Photo credit should read: Rick Findler/PA Wire
A youth looks at smoke billowing from a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Firefighters wait to start their shift after a massive fire raged in a 27-floor high-rise apartment building in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. London's Metropolitan Police said a number of people were being treated for a range of injuries, but did not provide more specifics. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Twitter that a major incident had been declared. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Firefighters wait to start their shift after a massive fire raged in a 27-floor high-rise apartment building in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. London's Metropolitan Police said a number of people were being treated for a range of injuries, but did not provide more specifics. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Twitter that a major incident had been declared. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Smoke billows as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Smoke and flames rise from a building on fire in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Metropolitan Police in London say they're continuing to evacuate people from a massive apartment fire in west London. The fire has been burning for more than three hours and stretches from the second to the 27th floor of the building.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A person, bottom right, peers out of a window from a building on fire in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Metropolitan Police in London say they're continuing to evacuate people from a massive apartment fire in west London. The fire has been burning for more than three hours and stretches from the second to the 27th floor of the building.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A helicopter and an airplane are seen as flames and smoke billow while firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
A helicopter is seen as flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
A helicopter is seen as flames and smoke billow while firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
A helicopter and an airplane are seen as flames and smoke billow while firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
A helicopter is seen as flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
A helicopter is seen as flames and smoke billow while firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Firefighters tackle a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Smoke billows as firefighters tackle a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Smoke and flames billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Firefighters tackle a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Smoke and flames billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
An airplane is seen as flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Fames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
A helicopter is seen as flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Smoke billows as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
A helicopter is seen as flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
An airplane is seen as flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The group said there was one entry and exit to the tower during improvement works and it had issues with evacuation procedures.

Concerns had also been raised about exposed gas pipes weeks before the devastating blaze.

Rydon, the firm that carried out the refurbishment work, said the project "met all required building regulations", in its latest statement following the fire.

But a line stating that the project had met all "fire regulation and health and safety standards", which was included in an earlier release, had disappeared.

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A police officer helps to evacuate a local resident. Photo: REUTERS

When questioned about residents' worries about fire safety at the block, the council's deputy leader Rock Feilding-Mellen told the BBC: "My understanding is that their concerns were looked at and officers and the TMO (tenant management organisation) made inquiries and felt we had done what was necessary."

Meanwhile, work is continuing to tackle "pockets of fire" in the block, with several residents reporting one man had said it started in his faulty fridge.

Many people are still unaccounted for with firefighters saying the operation now in the "recovery phase".

Commander Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police said: "This is going to be a long and complex recovery operation and I do anticipate that the number of fatalities will sadly increase beyond those 12."

Witnesses described hearing screams for help from people trapped on the upper floors of the block as flames engulfed the building, which contains 120 flats thought to be home to between 400 and 600 people.

Children and a baby were seen being thrown out of the windows to be caught by emergency workers and members of the public below.

London Fire Brigade said it had rescued 65 people as flames engulfed the block, and had managed to reach all 24 floors, though a full search of the building has not been completed.

NHS England said 74 patients were treated in six hospitals across London. Thirty-four remain in hospital including 18 who are in critical care.

On Wednesday evening, dozens of people gathered for a vigil in the shadow of the tower as the sun began to set.

Many were moved to tears after pausing for moment of silent contemplation outside the Notting Hill Methodist Church in west London.

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A photo taken by local resident Natalie Oxford shows flames coming from Grenfell Tower. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The Rev Mike Long said: "There are times when all the words we can say are not adequate and sometimes words fail us because no words can do justice to how we feel, or what we have seen or what has happened. Today is one of those days.

"What we can simply do is look to all that we have seen today which is good, which is fabulous - people getting together."

Emergency accommodation had been provided to 44 households affected by the fire, with families with young children, elderly residents and those who are vulnerable given "immediate priority", the local council said.

People unable to return to their homes were offered a place to stay at Westway Sports Centre in Crowthorne Road, north Kensington.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said "searching questions" need to be asked about what happened, suggesting spending cuts could have contributed to the deadly fire, while general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union Matt Wrack said: "The truth is this should not be happening in the UK, one of the wealthiest countries in the world."

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