Blood boiling over London tower blaze, with locals heckling city mayor Sadiq Khan
Anger mounted in London on Wednesday 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.
Police also said they have launched a criminal inquiry into the fire.
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 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 are still 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.
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.
Theresa May made a low-key visit to the scene in north Kensington yesterday.
She was pictured talking to fire officers and staring up at the blackened remains of the Grenfell Tower, but was criticised for leaving without talking to residents.
Later, in a televised recording made away from the scene, the prime minister announced the setting up of a public inquiry into the fire, which spread with a ferocity and speed that firefighters had not expected. “We need to know what happened,” May added. “We owe that to the families, to the people who have lost loved ones, friends and their homes in which they lived.”
One of those critical of the PM was Harriet Harman MP, who tweeted: “She should have been prepared to listen to them. Not OK to speak to them via TV.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also spent time at the scene, but stayed on to meet survivors.
“We have to get to the bottom of this,” he said. “The truth has got to come out and it will.”
Commander Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan police said the absolute priority was retrieving bodies and identifying the dead, as part of an ongoing investigation carried out with the fire service.
The senior officer said that 5,000 missing persons calls had been made to the police casualty bureau, many involving multiple reports concerning one individual; one person was reported missing 46 times. As a result, it was hard to be sure precisely how many remained to be accounted for.
The senior officer said he hoped the number of fatalities would not reach more than 100.
Writing in The Guardian, David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, said arrests and prosecutions should follow the deadly blaze. “Don’t let them tell you it’s a tragedy. It’s not a tragedy – it’s a monstrous crime. Corporate manslaughter. They were warned by the residents that there was an obvious risk of catastrophe. They looked the other way,” he wrote.
In support centres and at the scene of the fire, the anger and frustration of residents began to bubble over. A small protest broke out beneath the tower block, and one man was led away by police during Khan’s visit.