Monday 23 October 2017

'This should never happen' - Grief over Grenfell Tower tragedy escalates into angry protests

Demonstrators hold up banners during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Demonstrators hold up banners during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Demonstrators hold up banners during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Demonstrators hold up banners during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Demonstrators hold up banners during a march in Kensington, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Grief over the Grenfell Tower disaster turned into angry protests on Friday as the official death toll rose to at least 30 and dozens more deaths were feared.

Prime Minister Theresa May faced cries of "coward" and "shame on you" as she returned to the site of the devastating fire in west London after being criticised for not meeting victims in the wake of the tragedy.

Demonstrators stormed the offices of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) over its handling of the crisis amid concerns that earlier renovation work was linked to the dramatic spread of the blaze.

Hundreds of protesters also marched on Whitehall, central London, to voice their frustration at the Government's response to the fire, which ripped through the tower block in north Kensington on Wednesday morning.

Demonstrators hold up banners during a march in Kensington, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Demonstrators hold up banners during a march in Kensington, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Demonstrators hold up banners during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Demonstrators clash with police officers during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Police officers protect the entrance to the BBC building during a protest in central London following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
Police officers stand in front of the The Grenfell Tower block that was destroyed by fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Demonstrators hold up banners during a march in Kensington, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Demonstrators hold up banners during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Police officers block the entrance to Downing Street during a march through Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Demonstrators hold up banners during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
A demonstrator reacts during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Demonstrators shout during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Two demonstrators fight with each other during a protest in the West End, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
Protesters walk down Ladbroke Grove in west London demanding answers over the Grenfell Tower disaster. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Protesters march towards The Grenfell Tower block that was destroyed by fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Demonstrators sit in the road in the West End, 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 sit in the road in the West End during a protest following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Protesters close to Grenfell Tower in west London after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building on Wednesday morning. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Graffiti is seen on the pavement during a protest in central London following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
A woman looks at posters close to Grenfell Tower in west London after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building on Wednesday morning. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire
A man looks at tributes close to Grenfell Tower in west London after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building on Wednesday morning. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Flowers and tributes close to Grenfell Tower in west London after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building on Wednesday morning. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Protesters close to Grenfell Tower in west London after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building on Wednesday morning. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Protesters close to Grenfell Tower in west London after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building on Wednesday morning. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

The crowd later began marching towards Kensington High Street, chanting "no justice, no peace".

"We are here today because you must look at that building with tears streaming down your face," one woman said as they neared the foot of the tower.

"We need answers and we need answers now," another man said through a megaphone.

"This should not be happening in the United Kingdom, this should never happen."

Downing Street announced a £5 million fund for emergency supplies, food and clothing for victims amid fears the death toll will rise, with more than 70 people in total still believed to be unaccounted for.

There was a large police presence as Mrs May met a group of victims, residents, volunteers and community leaders at St Clement's Church close to the scene of the horrific blaze on Friday afternoon.

Demonstrators hold up banners during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Demonstrators hold up banners during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

She declined to speak to anyone outside the meeting where an angry crowd had gathered and police broke up a scuffle among the group as Mrs May's car drove off.

The PM had earlier visited Chelsea and Westminster Hospital to meet staff and patients who were caught up in the fire.

After her visit, Mrs May said: "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 Queen and Duke of Cambridge went to temporary relief centres where they met volunteers and residents who had lost everything.

A demonstrator reacts during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
A demonstrator reacts during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Confirming the latest death toll, Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said the tower remained "in a very hazardous state" but there was "nothing to suggest at this time that the fire was started deliberately".

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."

Demonstrators hold up banners during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Demonstrators hold up banners during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

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

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."

Police officers block the entrance to Downing Street during a march through Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Police officers block the entrance to Downing Street during a march through Westminster, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

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.

Tottenham MP David Lammy confirmed the news on Twitter, writing: "May you rest in peace Khadija Saye. God bless your beautiful soul. My heart breaks today. I mourn the tragic loss of a wonderful young woman."

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

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