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UK: Pressure piles on May as protests spill over into streets of London

Death toll likely to rise as more bodies are identified, while around 70 people are missing

Gulf News

London: Public fury over the London high-rise fire raged Saturday as exhausted firefighters continued their grim search for victims of the inferno that killed at least 58 people.

Police said the death toll was likely to rise as more bodies are identified, while around 70 people are missing and identification of the victims is proving very difficult. British health authorities say that 19 patients, 10 of whom remain in critical condition, are still being treated at four London hospitals.

A protest yesterday outside Kensington town hall was postponed due to the “rapidly changing situation”, its organisers said, but a larger march through central London was scheduled to go ahead.

After being heckled on Friday afternoon when leaving a west London church, British Prime Minister Theresa May was further criticised after appearing to sidestep a series of questions about her handling of the disaster in an interview with BBC2’s Newsnight. Emily Maitlis, the interviewer, told the prime minister: “You misread the public mood on this one. You misread the anger that people feel about this.”

May responded by repeatedly saying the blaze was “absolutely horrifying” and had been a “terrifying experience” for those affected.

Damian Green, May’s most senior minister, reiterated the government’s promise to rehouse those displaced by the fire within three weeks.

May chaired a meeting of senior officials at Downing Street yesterday before meeting Grenfell residents and volunteers at the prime minister’s residence.

Hundreds left homeless

Hundreds have been left homeless by the blaze, putting more pressure on officials in a city already plagued by a chronic housing shortage. The government has promised a full public inquiry, but that has done little to a sense of frustration at the lack of information about how the fire moved so quickly to engulf the building.

While the blaze has prompted an outpouring of generosity, with many people donating provisions and clothes, it has also unleashed rage at the authorities.

Angry protesters chanting “We want justice” pushed their way into the Kensington and Chelsea town hall on Friday. Opponents said May’s handling of the fire has thrust her position further into doubt by showing a failure to feel the public mood and act decisively.

Matthew Parris, a former Conservative lawmaker, said May’s response to the fire had shown a lack of judgment which made her unsuitable to be prime minister. “Wallowing in the wash of a general election that stripped our prime minister of her authority on the very eve of EU negotiations, neither common sense nor the evidence suggest she can re-establish public confidence,” Parris wrote. “This prime minister is not viable.”

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