At least 30 dead in London fire

The deadly blaze that gutted Grenfell Tower in the early hours of Wednesday morning does not appear to have been started deliberately, police say.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Grenfell Tower was home to about 600 people and whole families remain missing after the fire.

At least 30 people have been confirmed killed and dozens more are feared dead in the London tower block fire, police said on Friday, as firefighters continued searching for bodies amid growing concern over the use of cladding many blame for spreading the flames.

"We know that at least 30 people have died as a result of this fire ... I do believe the number will increase," police commander Stuart Cundy told reporters in front of the charred Grenfell Tower.

Cundy said police had started a criminal investigation but there was nothing to suggest "that the fire had been started deliberately."

He also said the last flames had finally been put out, two days after the fire broke out in the night between Tuesday and Wednesday in the 24-storey tower in a working-class enclave of the wealthy London borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

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

Cundy said one of the victims of the fire was a person who died in hospital. Twenty-four injured survivors are still being treated, 12 of them in critical care.

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

As TRT World'Sarah Firth reports, questions are growing over the cause of the fire. 

A long process

One of the victims from the incident was Mohammed Alhajali, a 23-year-old Syrian refugee, who came to Britain in 2014 with his brother. 

"Mohammed 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.

As the fire continued to burn more than 36 hours after the blaze started, police commander Stuart Cundy said he did not expect to find any survivors.

"There is a risk we may not be able to identify everybody. The process will be very long. We're talking weeks, we're talking months," he said. 

TRT World's Simon Mcgregor Wood has more from London. 

Rising criticism

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 the criticism centres on the cladding fitted to external walls on the 1970s concrete block 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 United Arab Emirates and Australia, which had also suffered fires that spread.

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

The official fire service advice for residents to stay in their homes and use towels to block out smoke while awaiting help has also come under scrutiny.

Rydon, the firm responsible for the refit, said the project "met all required building regulations."

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said they still did not know the cause of the fire, where it started or why it spread in such a way.

May faces pressure

Facing increasing criticism for not meeting with locals sooner, British Prime Minister Theresa May will visit those injured in a London tower block blaze in hospital on Friday, as pressure mounts on her after a failed election gamble.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan have all met residents. The queen and Prince William visited residents on Friday morning after government ministers had done so.

May has even been criticised from within her own Conservative Party for not doing so.


Queen Elizabeth II and her grandson Prince William visited a community centre where some of the survivors are being housed. (Reuters)

She has pledged to hold a public inquiry into the fire that killed 30 people with dozens still missing after it engulfed a 24-storey social housing block in West London, and expressed her sorrow on television after meeting emergency services personnel.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies