LONDON. – Anger mounted in London yesterday over a devastating tower block blaze with unconfirmed reports indicating that 70 people had died and dozens still unaccounted for.
Police said some of the victims were left unrecognisable. Locals yelled questions at Mayor Sadiq Khan on Thursday as he walked through the west London neighbourhood where the 24-storey Grenfell Tower went up in flames early on Wednesday.
“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. “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.”
Grenfell Tower was home to around 600 people and whole families 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 20 people 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.
One of the victims was named as 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.
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 an $11m refit completed in 2016. According to 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.
The government on Thursday 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. – AFP.