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Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
# grenfell tower
London fire: 'There is a risk we may not be able to identify everybody'
Police say the recovery process will be difficult, as angry locals asked London Mayor Sadiq Khan some tough questions.

Tower block fire in London Rick Findler / PA Images Emergency services with a rescue dog at Grenfell Tower in west London. Rick Findler / PA Images / PA Images

POLICE HAVE SAID that the process of recovering and identifying bodies from the burned out Grenfell Tower in London will be difficult and could take months.

Grenfell Tower went up in flames in the early hours of yesterday morning and spread quickly through almost all of the apartment block’s flats.

It was home to around 600 people – whole families still remain missing after the fire, which 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 by emergency services so far, six were outside the tower, while it has not yet been deemed safe enough to recover the 11 bodies found inside.

“They are simply not recognisable because of the fire,” Fiona McCormack, from the Metropolitan Police’s identification team, said of the victims found inside Grenfell Tower.

Tower block fire in London Rick Findler / PA Images Rick Findler / PA Images / PA Images

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.

Anger

Anger has been mounting in London over a devastating tower block blaze which killed at least 17 people, as police said some of the victims were left unrecognisable by the blaze.

Locals yelled questions at Mayor Sadiq Khan as he walked through the west London neighbourhood where the 24-storey Grenfell Tower went up in flames early yesterday morning.

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

Tower block fire in London Yui Mok / PA Images Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is confronted by Kai Ramos, 7, near Grenfell Tower in west London. Yui Mok / PA Images / PA Images

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

Cause of fire unknown

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 centres on the cladding fitted to external walls on the 1970s concrete block as part of a €9.9 million refit completed last year.

Tower block fire in London Rick Findler Fire service personnel survey the damage to Grenfell Tower. Rick Findler

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.

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

Harley Facades, which fitted the panels, told the BBC: “At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.”

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

‘Shaken to the core’

Earlier today, Prime Minister Theresa May ordered a public inquiry, an official review of action by public institutions.

Tower block fire in London Rick Findler Prime Minister Theresa May visits the scene near Grenfell Tower. Rick Findler

Khan urged the government to publish an interim report as soon as this summer, saying “we cannot afford to wait years for those answers”.

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.

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.

Tower block fire in London David Mirzoeff / PA Images Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn comforts a local resident at St Clement's Church in west London where volunteers have provided shelter and support for people affected by the fire at Grenfell Tower. David Mirzoeff / PA Images / PA Images

MPs have also called for quick progress with an official inquiry, with the Grenfell Tower residents’ local lawmaker Emma Dent Coad saying their “lives have been destroyed”.

“They’ve lost their loved ones and their communities have been shaken to the core. They need answers,” she said during a meeting at Westminster.

Fellow London MP Harriet Harman urged politicians to pursue the inquiry without delay, warning Fire Minister Nick Hurd if they didn’t act “you and all of us are culpable”.

Emergency fund

Tower block fire in London Yui Mok / PA Images Yui Mok / PA Images / PA Images

Grenfell Tower is part of a social housing estate in north Kensington, just streets away from some of the most expensive homes in the world in Notting Hill.

Residents have said their safety concerns were ignored, arguing their fears would have been addressed before the tragedy had they lived in a more upmarket area of London.

“If this happened somewhere near Knightsbridge this would have been resolved. It wouldn’t have been an issue,” said Nana Akuffo, 46, a chef volunteering at a local community centre.

David Collins, former chairman of the Grenfell Tower Residents’ Association, said the building’s management had failed to listen to residents’ calls for improvements on fire safety.

“This is a multi-ethnic, multicultural, diverse community that just didn’t get served by the people representing them,” Collins told AFP.

The government today set up an emergency fund to allow the local authorities to deal with the disaster.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds have already been raised online for the victims, while local community centres were inundated by donations of clothes and food.

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

© – AFP, 2017

Read: London fire: Theresa May orders full inquiry, as death toll rises to 17

Read: Cladding on London tower block was linked to a similar fire in Melbourne

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