Outrage grows as 'dozens' are missing, feared dead in London blaze

Mourning turns to rage: Police warn that some of the victims may never be identified because of the state of the remains

  • People gather outside Kensington Town Hall during protests following the Grenfell Tower fire in London, FridayImage Credit: AP
  • Clothes are sorted near Grenfell Tower in London, Friday June 16, 2017. A massive fire raced through the 24-stImage Credit: AP
  • Grief over a London high-rise tower fire turned to outrage Friday amid reports that the materials used in a reImage Credit: AP
  • People view messages and missing persons posters at a community centre near Grenfell Tower in London, Friday JImage Credit: AP
  • People view messages and missing persons posters at a community centre near Grenfell Tower in London, Friday JImage Credit: AP
  • Emergency workers wheel away a body from the fire-gutted Grenfell Tower in London, Friday, June 16, 2017, afteImage Credit: AP
  • People inside Kensington Town Hall react, during protests following the Grenfell Tower fire in London, Friday Image Credit: AP
  • Protesters gather outside Kensington town hall, the headquarters of the Royal Borough of Kensington and ChelseImage Credit: AP
  • A woman touches missing person posters near the Grenfell Tower block, destroyed by fire, in north Kensington.Image Credit: Reuters
  • People comfort each other after a prayer vigil outside Notting Hill Methodist Church close to the tower block Image Credit: Reuters
  • British PM Theresa May is barracked while she is bundled into her car, as she visits an emergency centre closeImage Credit: Social media via REUTERS
  • Volunteers move a car to make space for a lorry picking up supplies for people affected by the Grenfell Tower Image Credit: Reuters
  • A T-shirt with a written message from the London Fire Brigade hangs from a fence near The Grenfell Tower blockImage Credit: Reuters
  • A view of Grenfell Tower from the wealthy area of Holland Park in London, Britain June 16, 2017. Image Credit: Reuters
Gulf News

LONDON: Dozens of people are still unaccounted for and are feared dead in the London tower block fire as firefighters continued searching for bodies in the high-rise on Friday amid outrage over the use of cladding blamed for spreading the flames.

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As the Grenfell Tower fire death toll rises to 30 — some reports fear the death toll could exceed 100 — as firefighters have to look in the higher apartments, according to British media.

A man holds up a poster showing two missing children as Britain’s Queen Elizabeth leaves the scene of the fire that destroyed the Grenfell Tower block. AFP

Police have warned that some of the victims may never be identified because of the state of the remains.

Firefighters were using drones and sniffer dogs to search the building, saying that some of the upper floors are still inaccessible for humans because of concerns about the stability of the structure.

The area surrounding the council-owned tower has been plastered by desperate relatives with pictures of the missing, from grandparents to young children, and large numbers of volunteers were assisting survivors.

Anger has grown about local residents’ fire safety concerns being ignored by authorities for years.

Inquiry

The government has ordered a judge-led inquiry into Wednesday’s disaster but is under pressure to act quickly.

“Something’s gone wrong here, something’s gone drastically wrong,” Communities and Local Government Minister Sajid Javid told BBC radio.

Javid said inspections of similar buildings had been ordered, with particular attention to the modern cladding used to beautify and add an insulation layer to ageing concrete and steel structures.

Emergency workers wheel away a body from the fire-gutted Grenfell Tower in London yesterday, after a fire engulfed the 24-story building on Wednesday morning. AP

“We need to do whatever it takes to make people that live in those properties safe: that’s either make the properties safe or find some other accommodation, it has to be done,” he said, adding that survivors from the tower would be re-housed in the local area.

Locals yelled questions at mayor Sadiq Khan when he walked through the neighbourhood.

“How many children died? What are you going to do about it?” a young boy asked Khan, as the mayor tried to stop tensions rising further.

“You can see the anger for the community, justifiably so,” Khan said.

“Many people have been saying for some time now, their concerns about the housing we’re talking about now, but also other tower blocks around London.”

Single stairwell

The fire forced residents to flee through black smoke down the single stairwell, jump out of windows or even drop their children to safety.

Of the 17 victims found so far, six were outside the tower, while it has not yet been deemed safe enough to recover the 11 bodies found inside.

One of the victims was named as Mohammad Alhaj Ali, a 23-year-old Syrian refugee, who came to Britain in 2014 with his brother.

“Mohammad undertook a dangerous journey to flee war and death in Syria, only to meet it here in the UK, in his own home,” the Syrian Solidarity Campaign said in a statement.

Alhaj Ali, who lived on the 14th floor, was a civil engineering student at West London University.

“His dream was to be able to go back home one day and rebuild Syria,” the campaign group said.

Growing questions

Questions are growing about how the flames spread so quickly, engulfing the tower’s 120 apartments in what fire chiefs said was an unprecedented blaze.

The focus of criticism is on the cladding fitted to external walls of the 1974 tower as part of a #8.7 million ($11 million, 9.9 million euros) refit completed last year.

According to the BBC, the cladding had a plastic core and was similar to that used by high-rise buildings in France, the UAE and Australia, which had also suffered fires that spread.

The Times reported that the type of cladding used on the building was banned in US buildings taller than 12.2 metres because of fire safety fears.

It said the company that manufactured the cladding also made fire-resistant models that cost fractionally more than the standard version.

Harley Facades, which fitted the panels, said in a statement: “At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding.”

In addition to debate over the cladding, questions have also been raised over why there was no sprinkler system in the Grenfell Tower which could have helped stop the fire spreading, or any central smoke alarm system that would have woken sleeping residents.

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