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London fire: Death toll rises to 30; over 70 unaccounted for

India TV News Desk London 17 Jun 2017, 6:50:27 IST
India TV News Desk

The death toll in the horrific fire that engulfed 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London rose to 30 on Friday amid fears that it could climb to over 100 in one of the worst fire tragedies in the country. More than 70 persons remain unaccounted for and search was to find more bodies in the building, the Metropolitan Police said. Anger and frustration mounted in the London neighbourhood as relatives and friends of the missing made increasingly desperate appeals for information.

Metropolitan police commander Stuart Cundy said, "We know that at least 30 people who have died. The bodies have been taken to a morgue, but more bodies remain in the building." 

"We always knew that the death toll would increase," Cundy said, adding that there was nothing to suggest that the fire at the Grenfell Tower was started deliberately.

The investigation into the cause of the fire that has now been extinguished will take weeks, he added. "Sadly we do not expect there to be any survivors," Cundy said.

Earlier on Friday, Scotland Yard expressed fears that all the victims of the massive fire that engulfed a 24-storey tower in west London may never be identified.

While 30 people have been confirmed dead, there are fears the death toll could hit hundreds. Cundy said there was "a risk that sadly we may not be able to identify everybody".

Asked about the number of dead, he said he hoped the death toll would not reach "triple figures" and indicated a criminal investigation into the cause of the fire is underway.

"We as the police, we investigate criminal offences -- I am not sitting here and saying there are criminal offences that have been committed, that's why you do an investigation, to establish it," he said.

Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by grandson Prince William, paid a visit to the Grenfell Tower this morning where the number of missing is estimated to be around 76.

They met volunteers, local residents and community representatives while visiting Westway Sports Centre in west London, near the burnt down 24-storey Grenfell Tower.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a judge- led full public inquiry into the incident and is expected to pay a visit to the injured in one of the London hospitals after she faced criticism over her failure to meet the victims during a visit to the site yesterday.

Newly-appointed Indian-origin housing minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government, Alok Sharma, said, "Every single family will be rehoused in the local area".

Local residents shouted angry questions when London mayor Sadiq Khan paid a visit to the area.

Friends and families of victims, including a furious seven-year-old, asked: "How many children died? What are you going to do about it?"

"The bad news, I'm afraid, is lots of people died in the fire. There are a lot of brave firefighters and police and ambulance workers. And once it's safe, they are going to go into the building," he said, in an attempt to calm the crowds.

The local Grenfell Action Group had claimed, before and during a major 10-million-pound refurbishment of Grenfell Tower last year, that the block constituted a fire risk and residents had warned that access to the site for emergency vehicles was "severely restricted".

Emergency services are to spend a third day searching for bodies in the burnt-out Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, where they were called to reports of a fire in the early hours of Wednesday.

Their teams were forced to leave the 24-storey building yesterday afternoon when the fire restarted, delaying further the efforts to reach upper floors -- where many victims are thought to have been trapped.

Particular concerns have been raised about the rain- screen cladding used on the outside of the tower, which experts said might have accelerated the inferno that consumed the entire block in just 15 minutes.

It has since emerged that the US had banned the type of cladding thought to have been used on Grenfell Tower.

The leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council -- the authority that owns the tower block -- told the BBC it would not use the type of cladding fitted to Grenfell Tower in other buildings in the borough.

On Thursday, the first victim of the fire was named as 23- year-old Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali.

The Syria Solidarity Campaign said Alhajali, a civil engineering student, had been in a flat on the 14th floor when the fire broke out, and had spent two hours on the phone to a friend in Syria.

Meanwhile, donations to help those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy have surpassed 2 million pounds in just two days.

Theresa May announces 5 m pound fund for fire victims 

UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced a 5 million pound (6.4 million UD dollars) fund on Friday to help victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The move came after the Prime Minister met with residents near the site of the fire that ripped through the residential block in the early hours of Wednesday morning, killing at least 30 people.

The package includes a guarantee to rehouse people as close as possible to where they previously lived.

But the Conservative leader still struggled to overcome accusations that she lacked compassion because she had failed to meet with victims on her first visit to the devastated site.

Police surrounded May as she left a St Clements Church on Friday following the meeting with survivors.

Protesters shouted "Shame on you!" and "Coward!"

In an interview May refused to answer whether she misread the public mood by not meetings the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire during her visit the day before.

May instead focussed on her announcement of the funds and said that a full inquiry would look into the causes of the fire.

Asked about a coroner's report on a previous fire that killed six people in a block in South London in 2009, May refuted claims that the Conservative government hadn't acted on its recommendations when it was published in 2013 - recommendations that included installing sprinkler systems in old high-rise blocks that may have helped stop the spread of Wednesday's fire.

(With agencies)