Developing...

Live Updates: Officials Say They Can't Risk Another Grenfell Fire And Evacuate Five Towers

A fire tore through Grenfell Tower, north Kensington, shortly before 1am on Wednesday 14 June.

Originally posted on
Updated on

What We Know So Far

  • Police say 79 people have been confirmed dead or are missing, presumed dead, after a fire tore through the Grenfell Tower block in north Kensington, London, on Wednesday 14 June.
  • Speaking on Friday, 23 June, police said the fire originated in a faulty fridge-freezer. They added that tiles and insulation in the cladding failed safety tests. Manslaughter charges are being considered among other possible offences.
  • Meanwhile, hundreds of residents from five other towers were evacuated Friday amid fire safety concerns.
  • Theresa May announced a full public inquiry on Thursday afternoon, adding that "people deserve answers". Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called for the inquiry to publish an interim response this summer.
  • Witnesses said they saw people jumping from the building, and survivors have described how they managed to flee the building.
  • The building, constructed in 1974, is 24 storeys tall and contains 120 homes, according to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
  • Residents' groups had issued numerous warnings in the past few years about the tower block's fire safety provisions. Read more here.

Updates

Posted at

Thousands of people in five London towers are being evacuated while authorities assess buildings clad in the same material that went up in flames during last week's deadly fire at Grenfell Tower.

Georgia Gould — a councillor and leader of the Camden Council — said in a statement Friday that the evacuations will last three to four weeks while officials "undertake urgent fire safety works." She did not say how many people would be affected, but the BBC reported that more than 800 homes are subject to evacuation.

"I know it's difficult, but Grenfell changes everything and I just don't believe we can take any risks with our resident's safety and I have to put them first," Gould added during a news conference.

Gould said that people will be moved into temporary housing, hotels, and the homes of family and friends.

Read more here.

—Jim Dalrymple II

Posted at

14 high-rise buildings have failed cladding safety tests across the UK

The Communities and Local Government Department has said 14 high-rise buildings in nine local authorities have failed cladding tests.

Some of them are in Manchester, Camden, Plymouth, and Hounslow.

Read more about which buildings have the combustible cladding here.

—Patrick Smith

Posted at

Hotpoint, the brand that makes fridges, freezers, and tumble driers is urging customers to contact the firm after investigators confirmed that one of its products was linked to the Grenfell tower fire.

Downing Street confirmed on Friday that experts are urgently testing the Hotpoint fridge-freezer model.

"The government has ordered an immediate examination of this unit by technical experts to establish the cause of the incident. This is a product which was manufactured between '06 and '09 and has not been subject to product recalls.

"This testing will establish whether further action is required," a spokesperson for the government said.

The model, FF175BP, does not feature on Hotpoint's website on its "safety notices" page.

To read more about what the company is doing in wake of the fire click here.
—Sara Spary

Posted at

Tens of thousands of pounds in charitable grants are set to be be made available to victims and families of victims in the Grenfell Tower disaster, as the donations from the public begin to be consolidated with support from the Charity Commission.

The next of kin of those who lost their lives when the fire tore through the flats will receive an initial £20,000 of charitable funds, the government announced on Friday.

Survivors of the tragedy will receive up to £10,000 if they were seriously injured, and another £10,000 will go to families as a "fresh start" grant after they are permanently rehoused.

The announcement comes after a joint approach was agreed to consolidate the £10 million raised by the public and make it available for victims next of kin and survivors of the fire. The is the first phase of joint funding and the government says there is more to follow.

Read more about the grants being made available to victims here.

—Fiona Rutherford

Posted at

The government refused Friday morning to say how many of the 600 high-rise residential buildings covered in cladding in England have so far been through safety checks.

At a press briefing on Friday morning, a spokeswoman for Downing Street said figures for the number of samples that have been tested will be released Friday, but that the Department for Communities and Local Government is anxious about getting the figures right.

So far, the department has said that cladding from 11 high-rise buildings has failed urgent safety checks — but the failure rate on the tests is unknown because the officials won't give any indication of the number of samples they have so far tested.

As a result, it's impossible to judge at this point what percentage of the 600 tower blocks estimated to have used some form of cladding are a fire risk — and the scale of the potential problem that the authorities are dealing with.

Nor is it possible to say how long residents of those buildings will have to wait before they receive assurances that their buildings are fire-safe.

Asked by journalists why Downing Street wouldn't release the numbers, a spokeswoman said: "After yesterday's different figures being given out at different parts of the day, [DCLG] don't want that to happen again."

On Thursday, Number 10 initially said there were 600 high-rises in England covered in similar cladding to Grenfell. That was mistakenly reported by some outlets as meaning that 600 towers were covered in potentially combustible material. Later in the day, Number 10 rowed back on its earlier statement to say the 600 figure was for towers with any kind of cladding, not necessarily those with similar cladding to Grenfell.

On Friday, the government was more cautious about giving any figures. In addition to not saying how many samples had been tested, Downing Street had no answers to questions about the number of privately-owned residential buildings, hotels and hospitals that had cladding which may need to be safety-tested.

"[DCLG] wanted to be accurate," Downing Street's spokeswoman said. "They didn't feel that they could be quite accurate enough just in time for this briefing. We are absolutely totally committed to making sure that we give out transparent figures and as much information as possible, that's why we issued figures yesterday, but we want to be sure that's right. If that means you have to wait another hour or two, then you have to wait another hour or two. But those figures will emerge throughout today."

—Alex Spence

Posted at

Police considering manslaughter charges after revealing cladding failed safety tests

LIVE: Detective Ch Superintendent Fiona McCormack provides statement on the investigation into #GrenfellTower fire https://t.co/du4ff7CQHZ

Superintendent Fiona McCormack of the Metropolitan police has revealed that insulation and tiles on Grenfell Tower failed safety tests.

She added police are considering manslaughter charges in relation to the fire.

Posted at

NHS England released latest Grenfell Tower patient figures

Nine people are still receiving hospital treatment following last week's Grenfell Tower disaster, according to the latest figures provided by NHS England.

Of those, three are in critical care.

–Francis Whittaker

Posted at

Private tower block owners won't be forced to test for flammable cladding

Private sector owners of high-rise buildings will not be forced to test for cladding similar to that used in Grenfell Tower, the Department for Communities and Local Government has confirmed to BuzzFeed News.

While councils across the country are testing social housing tower blocks for the type of combustible material that is believe to have contributed to the speed the Grenfell blaze spread, testing in the private sector will be on a "voluntary" basis.

In the House of Commons on Thursday, Theresa May said she had instructed local councils to conduct urgent tests "as a precaution", and some had already found flammable material. Downing Street later said that this involved three buildings so far, while around 600 have been identified as potentially having the cladding.

The prime minister told MPs that private landlords also had a "legal obligation to provide safe buildings. And if they cannot do that, we expect alternative accommodation to be provided. We cannot and will not expect people to live in unsafe homes." She "encouraged" them to do the same.

Read more about what will be expected of private owners here.

–Sara Spary

Posted at

Urgent tests ordered after the Grenfell Tower disaster, in which at least 79 people died, have found combustible material on residential tower blocks across the country.

Theresa May told the House of Commons on Thursday that all local authorities with tall residential buildings were ordered to send samples of cladding on the outside of buildings to the Department of Communities and Local Government for testing.

The cladding on Grenfell Tower, which was made from aluminium and polyethylene, is thought to have contributed to the swift spread of the blaze by fire.

"The house should of course be careful in speculating on what caused this fire but as a precaution the government has arranged to test cladding in all relevant tower blocks," May said.

"Shortly before I came to this chamber I was informed that a number of these tests have come back as combustible. The relevant local authorities and fire authorities have been informed and as I speak they are taking all possible steps to ensure the buildings are safe and to inform affected residents.

"Landlords have a legal obligation to provide safe buildings. And if they cannot do that, we expect alternative accommodation to be provided. We cannot and will not expect people to live in unsafe homes."

Posted at

Corbyn: Grenfell Tower shows working-class people being ignored

.@jeremycorbyn on the Grenfell fire: “From Hillsborough to Grenfell the pattern is consistent: working-class people… https://t.co/EoP9Ee1tgR

Responding to Theresa May's statement in the House of Commons, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Grenfell disaster shows that working-class people's voices are being ignored.

Corbyn said residents had been "let down – both in the immediate aftermath and so cruelly beforehand".

Referring to explicit warnings over fire safety made by the Grenfell Action residents' group before the disaster, Corbyn said:

"From Hillsborough, to the child sex abuse scandal, to Grenfell Tower, the pattern is consistent: Working-class people's voices are being ignored, their concerns dismissed by those in power."

Posted at

PM says tests show some tower block cladding is "combustible"; no Grenfell residents will face immigration checks

Delivering a statement to the House of Commons, Theresa May said that residents displaced or affected by the Grenfell Tower fire would not be subjected to immigration checks.

Describing it as "one of the most unimaginable tragedies our country has seen in many years," the prime minister also said that the government has arranged for all cladding in relevant tower blocks to be tested in light of the disaster.

She added that tests so far show that "a number" are "combustible".

May also reiterated that residents would not be moved out of the area if they did not want to be, and said that the developers of the luxury Kensington apartment block where some Grenfell residents will be rehoused had been provided to the government at cost price.

She said it was "right" that the chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council had resigned.

–Francis Whittaker

Posted at

Council chief executive steps down after criticism

Kensington and Chelsea council chief executive Nicholas Holgate said he will resign after criticism of the local response to residents affected by the fire.

"Despite my wish to have continued, in very challenging circumstances, to lead on the executive responsibilities of the Council, I have decided that it is better to step down from my role, once an appropriate successor has been appointed," he said in a statement.

Holgate added that he had been told to resign by the secretary of state for community and local government.

"There is a huge amount still to do for the victims of the fire, requiring the fullattention of this Council and many others," Holgate said. "If I stayed in post, my presence would be a distraction."

Council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown said in a statement that he was grateful for Holgate's eight years of service. The council will work in "a new way with different partners" going forward, he added.

" Like everyone else, the Council has been grief stricken by the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire and has sought to provide the greatest level of support we can to victims," he said. "That is a huge challenge and Nicholas has led from the front in seeking to do this."
–Claudia Koerner

Posted at

Theresa May has apologised for the Grenfell Tower response in parliament

Theresa May has apologised for the national and local response to the Grenfell Tower disaster during the parliamentary debate about the Queen's Speech in the House of Commons.

"Let me be absolutely clear: The support on the ground for families in the initial hours was not good enough," May said. "People were left without belongings, without roofs over their heads, without even basic information about what had happened, what they should do, and where they could seek help.

"That was a failure of the state, local, and national, to help people when they needed it most. As prime minister I apologise for that failure, and as prime minister I've taken responsibility for doing what we can to put things right."

–Francis Whittaker

Posted at

The government has acquired 68 apartments in a luxury complex in Kensington to permanently house the Grenfell Tower fire survivors, communities secretary Sajid Javid announced on Wednesday afternoon.

The newly built social housing, which is part of a £2 billion luxury complex, has been bought by the City of London Corporation as part of the response to the tragedy, and handed to Kensington & Chelsea council.

The price of private homes in the luxury complex starts at £1.5 million and includes a 24-hour concierge, swimming pool, and private cinema.

The announcement comes after the government's promise to ensure survivors from Grenfell Tower will be rehoused in the local area.

Read more here.

–Fiona Rutherford

Posted at

Today's Queen's Speech announced that the government will launch a public inquiry into the Grenfell tower fire and establish a new advocate for people who have lost loved ones in public tragedies.

The Queen set out that a full public inquiry into the disaster, in which 79 people have been confirmed dead or are missing, presumed dead, would be launched to "ascertain the causes and ensure the appropriate lessons are learnt".

She also confirmed that government would take "measures to introduce an independent public advocate, who will act for bereaved families after a public disaster and support them at public inquests".

Plans for an advocate were first introduced in the Conservative manifesto, which said a body would be established to "ensure that the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families over the last 20 years is not repeated".

Read more here.

–Sara Spary

Posted at

10 people are still in hospital following the Grenfell disaster

One week on from the Grenfell Tower fire, there are 10 people still receiving treatment across four London hospitals, figures released by NHS England show.

Of those 10, six are in critical care.

Yesterday, the clinical director of King's College hospital said some patients could take weeks or even months to recover.

–Francis Whittaker

Posted at

Kensington and Chelsea council leader says no Grenfell survivors have been offered accommodation outside of London

Jack Taylor / Getty Images

Paget-Brown (left) with the Met's Commander Stuart Cundy last week.

Nick Paget-Brown, the under-fire leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, has released a statement marking one week since the Grenfell Tower disaster, and said no residents of the building have been offered accommodation outside of London.

Rumours that some residents had been offered housing as far afield as Lancashire have circulated on social media in the days since the blaze.

"The government has committed to re-housing all residents within three weeks of the disaster and as close to the Grenfell Tower as possible," Paget-Brown said on his blog.

"We are committed to helping deliver that promise, and no residents have been offered accommodation outside of central London."

He also said that another centre specifically for the friends and family of those who died or are missing would be opening soon, with more details forthcoming in the next 24 hours.

You can read Paget-Brown's full statement here:

For many of us, Wednesday 21 June will be a day of remembrance for the victims and the residents of Grenfell Tower, as we mark a week since the start of the tragic fire.

We remain heart-broken by the appalling loss of life and we are doing everything we can to help the families of the victims and the residents to get the help they need as they try to rebuild their lives.

We have now allocated a social worker to every household from Grenfell Tower, plus other families who live near the tower and that have been affected. They have been visiting families since last week and will be a key support for families going forward.

As of yesterday (20 June), a total of 250 households had been placed in temporary accommodation pending permanent rehousing. The Government has committed to re-housing all residents within three weeks of the disaster and as close to the Grenfell Tower as possible. We are committed to helping deliver that promise, and no residents have been offered accommodation outside of central London.

The community assistance centre at Westway has been in operation since last Wednesday morning. In addition to the centre at Westway, which will continue to offer support to the community, we will also be opening a further centre specifically for the friends and family of the victims and the missing, details of which will be provided in the next 24 hours.

We would like to offer our heartfelt thanks to the community, the Emergency Services, hospitals, charities, volunteer groups, the Government and neighbouring local authorities and to our own teams who have been working tirelessly to try and help all those affected by this terrible event. We are enormously grateful for their support.

We are deeply sorry for all those affected and today we will remember the victims and stand with the residents and our community.

–Francis Whittaker

Posted at

The newly formed Grenfell Response Team and Kensington and Chelsea council have denied reports that residents are being rehoused of miles away from their homes and are being declared "intentionally homeless" should they refuse to move out of the borough.

In a video that has been shared widely on social media, one survivor says he's heard of a man who was taken out of a hotel and sent to live in Preston:

#grenfelltower survivor says they are being pressured to move as far north as Preston 😱 @smtm_LFC

"They're doing disgusting things, they're cutting corners and we're all scared for what's going to happen to us," he says in the video.

"They're basically putting pressure on people, so if you don't accept the offer you're making yourself intentionally homeless."

However, James Ryan, a spokesperson for the newly formed Grenfell Response Team, told BuzzFeed News that claims of people being rehoused miles away from their homes are untrue. "We have endeavoured to keep accommodation as local as possible, and we completely accept residents' wishes to remain close to the community," he said.

Ryan said that so far 126 survivors of Grenfell Tower and residents who lived in the neighbouring building on Grenfell Walk have been placed in emergency hotel accommodation. He said survivors are currently being assessed for their housing needs, and that they will be rehoused in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea or a neighbouring borough.

"Work is taking place to assess the housing needs of all Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk families to identify suitable accommodation in [Kensington and Chelsea] and neighbouring boroughs," he said.

When contacted by BuzzFeed News, the Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington flatly denied any suggestion that residents would be designated "intentionally homeless".

Read more here.

–Fiona Rutherford and Rose Troup Buchanan

Posted at

A hospital treating victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster said patients could face several months of recovery

A hospital treating Grenfell Tower fire victims has said that patients caught in the disaster could face weeks or even months of recovery.

Fourteen people remain in hospital after the blaze, with eight in critical care, NHS England has said.

Duncan Bew, the clinical director of King's College hospital, told BBC News that doctors had expected hundreds of patients in the aftermath of the fire, but far fewer turned up than expected.

"We were ready to receive many more casualties," Bew said, with staff expecting to treat hundreds of people suffering from injuries ranging from smoke inhalation and burns to "people falling from a height from jumping from windows".

"We knew there were many more people in the building," he said. "As time went on and we realised that we weren't going to receive those casualties, it was very sad."

The vast majority of the patients the hospital received suffered from smoke inhalation rather than burns.

"We had patients who had saved their own families but had also tried to save other families as well," he said. "They had to make a very difficult decision. People went into the stairwells and went into toxic smoke. I think people who escaped felt that they were going to die and that the only way to stay alive was to go through the smoke."

In total, the hospital's major trauma centre received 12 Grenfell Tower patients and are still treating seven, five of whom are in critical care.

–Francis Whittaker

Posted at

A Tory councillor was suspended for this tweet about Grenfell Tower protesters

This appears to be @Conservatives councillor responsible for housing on Solihull council comparing #GrenfellTower c… https://t.co/EQroljOHXS

A Tory councillor has been suspended over an offensive tweet about a Grenfell Tower protest, the leader of Solihull council has confirmed.

On Friday afternoon the Twitter account of councillor Ken Hawkins posted "Let's get ourselves a hangin!'" while sharing a photo of the hundreds of people gathered outside Kensington Town Hall to demand justice for the victims of the tragedy, which left at least 79 people dead.

Protesters chanted "no justice, no peace" and "Tories out" as they marched through the borough. Many were disappointed at the lack of support survivors had received from the government.

The tweet has been deleted, while the cabinet member for environment, housing, and regeneration's account has been set to private.

In a statement to BuzzFeed News Bob Sleigh, leader of Solihull council, said that he had taken immediate action to suspend Hawkins from his position in light of complaints about his social media activity over the weekend.

Sleigh added that the council's monitoring officer would conduct an investigation.

"Like the whole country, I have been shocked and deeply moved by the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower," he said in a statement.

“Over the weekend the Council received a formal complaint about the actions of a Cabinet Member, Cllr Ken Hawkins. In light of the complaint related to Cllr Hawkins comments on social media, an investigation will now take place led by the Council's Monitoring Officer in line with the Council's standards procedures."

The statement continued: “I have taken the immediate action to suspend Cllr Hawkins from his Cabinet Member position for the Environment, Housing and Regeneration. I will be taking responsibility in the short term for these areas.”

Ken Hawkins declined to comment.

Read more here.

–Fiona Rutherford

Posted at

John Healey, the shadow housing minister, has written to Sajid Javid, the secretary of state for communities and local government, to demand answers as to why four ministers allegedly "ignored specific warnings that fire safety regulations were inadequate for high-rise residential buildings like Grenfell Tower".

The BBC programme Panorama reported on Monday night that in 2014 the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for fire safety and rescue wrote to Stephen Williams, then communities minister, and Eric Pickles, then secretary of state for communities and local government, to ask them to review safety recommendations.

According to the programme, in a letter sent in the aftermath of the Lakanal House disaster, in which six people were killed in a fire in a Camberwell building, the APPG's secretary Ronnie King wrote:

"As there are estimated to be another 4,000 older tower blocks in the UK, without automatic sprinkler protection, can we really afford to wait for another tragedy to occur before we amend this weakness?"

After further correspondence, Williams eventually replied: "I have neither seen nor heard anything that would suggest that consideration of these specific potential changes is urgent and I am not willing to disrupt the work of this department by asking that these matters are brought forward."

A year later, Panorama reported, the APPG wrote to James Wharton, who was also a minister at the department, to warn about the flammability of cladding, saying: "Today's buildings have a much higher content of readily available combustible material. Examples are timber and polystyrene mixes in structure, cladding and insulation.

"This fire hazard results in many fires because adequate recommendations to developers simply do not exist. There is little or no requirement to mitigate external fire spread."

In 2016, according to Panorama, the APPG wrote to yet another minister, Gavin Barwell. He replied first that he would make a statement "in due course" about his department's analysis of the regulation, then earlier this year replied again to "acknowledge that producing a statement on building regulations has taken longer than I had envisaged".

In his letter to the secretary of state, which was sent on Tuesday, John Healey asked:

  • Will you release in full the correspondence between your department and the All-Party Group?
  • Will you set out the reasons for not acting upon their concerns?
  • For each recommendation made in the rule 43 reports on the Shirley Towers and Lakanal House fires, will you set out your department's progress in implementing the recommendations?
  • Will you place in the Library of the House a copy of the research your department said has been undertaken on fire regulation and safety in a response to the BBC on these allegations?

Healey told BuzzFeed News: "There are serious questions for current and former Ministers to answer in light of the Grenfell Tower fire.

"I have written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, today to get the answers on why important warnings and recommendations over the last four years were not acted upon, so that we can ensure a tragedy like this never happens again."

Read more here.

–Marie Le Conte

Posted at

The moment firefighters first saw the Grenfell Tower blaze

This is the horrifying moment firefighters first saw the Grenfell Tower fire (Footage from BBC Panorama)

This is dramatic moment the first firefighters called to the scene of the Grenfell Tower fire were confronted with the scale of the disaster.

Footage broadcast by BBC Panorama on Monday captured the shock and disbelief of the crew as they started to realise they were about to deal with an unprecedented tower block fire.

Firefighters can be heard to say "That's a whole block" and "How is that possible?".

Tower blocks are designed to withstand fires be containing them in the single flat where they first occur – but this didn't happen at Grenfell, as the blaze ripped up the side of the building.

Fire safety experts have suggested that the type of cladding used on the outside of the building, a comparatively cheap variety that had a polyethylene core, could be responsible. This is set to be one of the key questions that a forthcoming public inquiry will investigate. At least 79 people died or remain missing.

You can read more here.

–Patrick Smith

Posted at

London mayor Sadiq Khan has called for locals and residents of Grenfell Tower to be involved in the public inquiry examining the case of the residential block fire that has so far claimed at least 79 lives.

Khan, writing in a letter to prime minister Theresa May, said it was imperative that people from the area were involved in the public inquiry announced by the PM last week.

"Relations with the local community can be further strengthened by ensuring families, survivors and civil society groups have a role in drawing up the terms of reference for the public inquiry and are consulted on where inquiry hearings are held," he wrote, the Evening Standard reported.

"Any attempt to exclude them from the process risks further fuelling mistrust. It is crucial that families, survivors and local civil society groups are designated as core participants so that they can play a full and active role in the process."

It comes after many locals said their warnings over the building's fire safety were ignored by the local authority. In the fallout of the fire, which has displaced scores of families, the response by the Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington has been criticised.

Over the weekend it emerged that other London councils would take over the relief effort after a catalogue of errors. The councils, working with the British Red Cross and other emergency relief agencies, said the council's response was "simply not good enough on the ground".

–Rose Troup Buchanan

Posted at

Eight remain in critical care following Grenfell Tower block fire

Eight people remain in critical care in hospital after the Grenfell Tower blaze last week. Seventy-nine people remain missing or dead after the huge fire, which devastated a tower block in west London.

Fourteen people remain in hospital in total, NHS England said in a statement. Twenty people had been in critical care, and 64 people were initially admitted to hospital.

King's College hospital is treating seven people, five of who are in critical care. Chelsea West is treating three people, one of who is in critical care. The Royal has only one patient – who is presently in critical care. St Mary's has three patients, and staff are caring for one in critical care.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

Posted at

Adele visits firefighters after the blaze

Via facebook.com

The singer Adele has visited firefighters in Chelsea fire station after the horrific Grenfell Tower blaze that has claimed 79 lives so far.

Adele, who had also visited the site of the fire and spoken to relatives last week, apparently dropped into the station yesterday.

Rob Petty, a firefighter with London Fire Brigade, put pictures of himself and his fellow officers with Adele on Facebook. "Not everyday the wonderfully grounded and caring Adele pops into Chelsea Firestation for a cup of tea and a cuddle," he wrote.

At the height of the blaze more than 200 firefighters worked through the night to fight the fire. LFB Commissioner Dany Cotton said many of those who worked would need psychological support after the fire.

"I spoke to some people who were truly distressed," she said last week, describing how many of her crews had witnessed things they had never anticipated. "They are heroes but they have feelings," she said, talking about an experienced officer who was reduced to tears after witnessing a tower block resident leaping form the building yesterday.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

Posted at

First payments made to families affected by fire

The first payments are being made to families affected by the fire, officials said on Monday, and work continues on other relief efforts.

Prime Minister Theresa May chaired a meeting of the Grenfell Tower Recovery Task Force, which focused on the needs of people who lost their homes.

"While it was clear some progress is being made, the Prime Minister will continue to receive daily updates to ensure that the steps taken are being carried forward at sufficient scale and speed that help is getting to people who need it," Downing Street saidin a statement.

Eligible households have started receiving payments, and May said a commitment remains to find new homes for displaced residents within three weeks — in their same neighborhood.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who also attended the meeting, said he has offered volunteers to help Grenfell residents navigate the system of support available to them.

He added that he is pushing for a speedier timeline to check other tower blocks for fire risks.

—Claudia Koerner

Posted at

Hundreds march in silence to demand justice for those affected by the fire

There are hundreds of people walking in complete silence. The families, friends, and survivors are leading the proc… https://t.co/2fQqkXGIKm

Around 200 people took to the streets demanding justice after at least 79 people died, or are presumed dead, in a fire that tore through Grenfell Tower in west London.

It also marked the launch of the Justice 4 Grenfell campaign – a coalition of organisations working together to demand answers from the government, such as why the relief operation was so chaotic.

"People need to see the deeper meaning of the silence," one resident said. "That silence doesn't only represent the grieving of this community, it also represents the state that the operations of the most senior authorities have left us in."

Read more here.

—Fiona Rutherford

Posted at

Local people launch the Justice 4 Grenfell Campaign

Lots of signs about love at the #justice4grenfell march

Families, friends, and survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire are leading a march from Ladbroke Grove Library to Bramley Road, west London, as they formally launch the Justice 4 Grenfell campaign for those who died in the blaze last week.

As well as those personally affected, community leaders are expected to join the march, including Labour's Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad and barrister Michael Mansfield QC – who represented the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence and will be advising the group.

The campaign will outline its objectives and what they expect from the government in order for them to "move on as a community and begin the healing process", a statement released on Facebook said.

In a statement, Ishmahil Blagrove, one of the campaign coordinators, said: "It is time for all marginalised communities across Britain regardless of class, faith or ethnicity to come together and challenge the disparities in wealth and inequalities that have plagued our society."

In a statement, the organisers said it was crucial that the authorities "commit to rehousing all residents to ensure their future safety and security".

"The council has a responsibility to all these people," the most recent statement says. "No-one should be left in a worse situation by this tragedy, and the Grenfell community must be allowed to heal together in the local area if they wish to."

The Met police today confirmed that as many as 79 people were believed to have died, with more missing. Stuart Cundy, Met commander, warned it was likely the number would change.

–Rose Troup Buchanan and Elizabeth Pears

Posted at

More victims formally identified by Met

The Metropolitan police have formally identified more victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Abufars Ibrahim, 39, Anthony Disson, 65, and a a 52-year-old woman were formally identified as victims of the fire. The woman's family told the Met they did not wish to release her name publicly yet.

In a statement given to the Met, the family of Disson said they were "devastated" by the news.

"Tony leaves behind a large family, his wife, sons and grandchildren, including one grandchild he will never get to meet," they said, and asked for privacy during this difficult period.

"We miss him terribly, and are pulling together as a family and trying to stay strong under these tragic circumstances."

The Met's statement confirms that all of those named were residents of Grenfell Tower. Postmortem examinations are being conducted at Westminster Mortuary.

"The families of all four victims have been informed, and are being supported by specially trained family liaison officers," it adds.

On Sunday, the Met formally identified 23-year-old Mohammad Alhajali as one of the victims. Local 24-year-old artist Khadija Saye was also previously confirmed as among the dead.

Earlier today, Met Commander Stuart Cundy confirmed that 79 people were believed dead or missing.

You can read about all those still missing here.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

Posted at

Britain holds minute's silence in memory of the Grenfell victims

People across the country fell silent at 11 am local time to remember those killed in last week's blaze in west London.

Members of the London Fire Brigade and other emergency services joined residents for the silence at the site of the disaster.

Posted at

Five people who were reported as missing have been identified and are alive and well, police confirm

As Met Commander Stuart Cundy announced the latest death toll figure on Monday morning, he also revealed that five people who were reported as missing have been identified and are alive and well.

"Thankfully over the last few days, we have identified five people who people believed were missing and I am so grateful that they are alive, safe, and well," he said.

–Fiona Rutherford

Posted at

Missing and dead from fire rises to 79, Met confirms

Those dead or missing, presumed dead, from the Grenfell tower fire has risen to 79 people, the Metropolitan police have confirmed.

"I know that there are 79 people who are missing, or presumed dead," Commander Stuart Cundy confirmed, and said it was hard to convey the devastation within the flats.

Cundy also said the process of identifying victims was likely to take weeks due to the "indescribable" conditions inside the tower. "Due to the intensity of the fire we may not be able to identify everyone who has died," he said.

"With the agreement of the families and the coroner, once we have confirmed the identities of those who have died, we will be releasing their names," he said.

Just five people have been identified so far. Seventeen patients are receiving care across four hospitals in England, nine of whom are in a critical condition, according to figures released by NHS England.

However, Cundy said that the number of people presumed to be dead, or missing, may change as there may be people in the tower who people have not yet realised are missing.

"I must consider the fact that there may be others in the building who, for whatever reason have not been reported to us," he said. "There is also a real possibility that there may be people in the building that no one knows are missing."

— Rose Troup Buchanan and Fiona Rutherford

Posted at

The UK will observe a minute’s silence at 11am on Monday 19 June

Victoria Jones / PA Wire/PA Images

The silence, which will be marked at all government buildings, is in remembrance of those who lost their lives and survivors of the fire tore through Grenfell Tower during the early hours of Wednesday morning.

In a statement Theresa May said: "The residents of Grenfell Tower, families who have lost loved ones, and the emergency services who have been working so hard to help them have been through some of the most harrowing and traumatic experiences imaginable.

“As we do everything we can to help them, we will make sure they have the counselling and emotional support they need in the difficult days, weeks and years ahead.”

— Fiona Rutherford

Posted at

Police release photos and video from inside Grenfell Tower

Metropolitan Police / Via news.met.police.uk

The Metropolitan police have released photos and videos from inside Grenfell Tower.

The photos and videos, taken by detectives of a specialist police recovery team, give one of the first views of the inside of the extensively damaged and burnt building.

"Whilst our teams have been from the bottom to the top of the tower, we must now carry out a full forensic and systematic search," said Commander Stuart Cundy in a statement.

"The conditions due to the fire damage verge on indescribable, which is why this will be such a lengthy operation taking weeks to complete. We must also prepare people for the terrible reality that some people may not be identified due to the intensity of the fire."

Metropolitan Police

Video taken by a specialist police recovery team.

Posted at

Grenfell Tower families to receive a minimum of £5,500

Every family that lost their home as a result of the Grenfell Tower fire will receive a guaranteed payment of at least £5,500, the government has announced, hours after it was claimed survivors had been given just £10 by the local council.

A Downing Street statement said the payment would be made up of £500 in cash, paid immediately, and £5,000 paid into bank accounts starting from tomorrow.

The money is being paid from a £5 million fund announced by prime minister Theresa May on Friday.

In a statement, May said: "As we continue to respond to the needs of the community, our focus is on ensuring that all of those affected by this unimaginable tragedy get the right support as quickly as possible.

"My government will continue to do absolutely everything possible to help all of those affected through the difficult days, weeks, months and years ahead."

–Matthew Champion

Posted at

The mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said the Grenfell Tower fire was the result of years of neglect by local and central government.

"There's a feeling that the council and successive governments don't understand their concerns and, frankly, don't care," he said after attending a church service close to the tower, where at least 58 people are thought to have lost their lives.

Khan described the fire as a "preventable accident that didn't need to happen," adding that the "tragedy we're seeing is a consequence of the mistakes and neglect from politicians from the council and from the government."

He added: "One of the things that we must do is support those families who've lost their homes, what we must do is make sure we help those who're grieving, we must make sure we learn the lessons, we must make sure it's not so hard for people who need help, to find help."

Read more here.

–Matthew Champion.

Posted at

The leader of Kensington and Chelsea council says he rejects the impression that local authorities lost control of the situation following the Grenfell Tower fire.

Following reports of chaotic and confusing scenes at rest centres, Nick Paget-Brown told BBC News it was "inaccurate" to say the council was not present and trying to help survivors and other affected residents.

"Right at the beginning we were quite aware that this was a huge enormity," he said, adding that no single local authority in London would have been able to deal with the aftermath of the fire alone.

"Kensington and Chelsea officials have been working around the clock since Wednesday, and I've come on air to support the work that they have been doing," he said. "I'm sure there are challenges, we will look at all of that, but to say that the local authority is not present and we're not working together with other councils is inaccurate."

Paget-Brown, leader of the Tory-run council, said he understood the "enormous concerns and anger" of people about the events leading up to the fire, which is understood to have claimed the lives of 58 people.

"I share that anger, the council is wanting to know why that fire started, why it spread so quickly," he said. "My immediate concern this weekend is to ensure that the right support services for some very vulnerable people are on the ground. I've been out this morning to check that they are, I've satisfied myself that they are, but this is a long term requirement."

Paget-Brown said concerns over the way the tenant management organisation handled the recent refurbishment of Grenfell Tower were "proper questions", but "not questions for this afternoon, those are questions for the inquiry" being set up by prime minister Theresa May.

Asked about MP David Lammy expressing concerns of documents that could prove useful to the criminal investigation into the fire being destroyed or going missing before police could get their hands on them, Paget-Brown said he "hadn't given any thought to it".

"My immediate concern and my immediate preoccupation since Wednesday has been to ensure that we are able to support and provide support to some very distressed, vulnerable people: children who will perhaps to go school tomorrow and find that classmates are no longer there; elderly people whose first language isn't English finding that they've lost the person who was giving them support," he said when asked if he had thought about resigning over the fire.

"I'm trying to make sure we get through that, that the council has the right support systems in place, with the help of other authorities and the mayor of London and gold command, and everybody else. But that's my immediate focus. I too want to know what went wrong with this refurbishment, and I will be asking those questions."

–Matthew Champion

Posted at

Volunteer claims Grenfell Tower fire survivors are being given £10 at hotels

Volunteer @partinator says victims of #GrenfellTower fire have no access to donated funds and are being given 'a te… https://t.co/jh5tExRaw0

Nisha Parti, a film producer and west Londoner, has been volunteering to help survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire. She told ITV's Peston on Sunday programme that Kensington and Chelsea council has been giving residents £10 when they are placed in hotels. She added that no one was telling volunteers or victims where the money being raised for them was going.

"There is money pouring in from all these amazing volunteers and we can't get access to the money to get it to the families," Parti said.

"Victims were going to hotels, arriving at hotels with no one from the council to greet them, to check them, to look after them, to give them clothes and food. Volunteers are now going to hotels with food packages with cash."

BuzzFeed News has contacted Kensington and Chelsea council for comment.

Appearing on the same programme, David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, who lost a friend in the fire, asked: "Why are we behaving like this is Victorian England?"

He said the response to the fire was "an outrage, it's a scandal, it's appalling".

–Ikran Dahir

Posted at

Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons and a former Tory leadership contender, has admitted she feels a sense of "shame" over the Grenfell Tower fire.

"Totally, yes of course of course," she said in an appearance on BBC One's Sunday Politics show. "We all think, What should we have done or could we have? It's just unbearable. This cannot happen in the 21st century and yet it has."

"We are all very conscious that the support wasn't good enough in the first couple of days" @andrealeadsom tells… https://t.co/SJ4xtWCaxO

Posted at

MP who lost friend to fire says suspicion of cover-up is growing

Have the offices been searched? Have the computers and documents been seized? This is a crime, we need urgent action

David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, has called on prime minister Theresa May and the Metropolitan police to seize all relevant documents to the Grenfell Tower fire investigation to remove the risk they will be destroyed.

Lammy, whose friend Khadija Saye died in the fire, said that within the community, suspicion was growing of a cover-up into what led to the deaths of at least 58 people.

"The prime minister needs to act immediately to ensure that all evidence is protected so that everyone culpable for what happened at Grenfell Tower is held to account and feels the full force of the law," he said.

"We need urgent action now to make sure that all records and documents relating to the refurbishment and management of Grenfell Tower are protected."

Asked by a Sky News presenter whether his intervention could only intensify anger, Lammy replied: "Why is it making things worse? You will be aware that as a journalist there are other major police investigations. Let's say the investigations around terrorism, you get a rolling commentary from the police. We know, minimum, that 50-odd people have lost their lives. Why is it not appropriate given there's a criminal investigation for the people who have lost loved ones not to hear a little bit more about this criminal investigation?

"People are suspicious that when it involves the state, when it involves a local authority, when it involves a failed [tenant management organisation], when it involves contractors suddenly we all go quiet and we talk about it being a tragedy. They want more than that actually, they want to know what is really going on, and they expect to hear that from the prime minister and others. That is not me stirring the pot, that is me speaking for the most vulnerable people in our society."
–Matthew Champion

Posted at

Sections of two London Underground lines were closed yesterday due to "the recent building fire near Latimer Road," Transport for London (TfL) said.

TfL said the London Fire Brigade had requested they close stations close to Grenfell Tower due to a short-term risk of debris falling on to the track.

The lines could reopen by Sunday afternoon.

No service btn Wood Lane & Edgware Road due to recent building fire near Latimer Road. Services expected to resume at 2pm.

No service btn Wood Lane & Edgware Road due to recent building fire near Latimer Road. Services expected to resume at 2pm.

Posted at

Chancellor: Grenfell cladding was illegal in this country too

"My understanding is that the cladding in question... is also banned here" - Philip Hammond on #GrenfellTower… https://t.co/GiVdlyTJ8T

Chancellor Philip Hammond has said the cladding used in a recent refurbishment of the Grenfell Tower may have been illegal to use in the UK.

People who witnessed the fire in the early hours of Wednesday morning said flames spread very quickly up the side of the building, and that the cladding had contributed to its spread.

The particular cladding used is banned in certain buildings in the US, and banned outright in Germany, but Hammond told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show it was his understanding it was also illegal to use in the UK.

"There are two separate questions, one is 'are our regulations correct, do they permit the right kind of materials and ban the wrong kind of materials?'. Second question is 'were they correctly complied with?'," he said.

Hammond said these questions would both be examined by the public inquiry ordered by the prime minister, and the separate criminal inquiry launched by the Metropolitan police.

You can read more about unanswered questions about the fire here.

–Matthew Champion

Posted at

The Labour-run Ealing council says it is stepping in to help deal with the aftermath of the tower fire.

Rupinder Hardy, a manager at Ealing council, held meetings with volunteers last night and this morning, and told BuzzFeed News: "Now we've got a lot of Ealing people coming, and we've got representatives from government offices.

"I've suggested yesterday what I'd like to see, and I'd like to get this to feel like a rest centre, to feel welcoming, to feel inclusive, to give the opportunity to the community to be somewhere where they can talk to community groups and to be heard, and to have their outcomes met."

The news comes after prime minister Theresa May admitted the response to the fire had not been good enough.

Speaking to ITV's Peston on Sunday programme, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "You have a very large number of people looking for somewhere to live now because the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea doesn't have the capacity to deal with the crisis."

Read more here.

–Aisha Gani

Posted at

Theresa May has admitted the support on the ground for survivors of the Grenfell Fire disaster "was not good enough".

Following criticism of the authorities' response to the fire, which culminated in a series of protests last night, the prime minister said she was ordering "immediate action" to help victims' relatives and survivors.

May met with residents, volunteers and community leaders at Downing Street today, to, she said, "listen to their concerns and reassure them personally that government is there for them – and that everything possible will be done to help them through the hugely difficult days, weeks, months and years to come."

"The response of the emergency services, NHS and the community has been heroic," she said in a written statement issued after the meeting.

"But, frankly, the support on the ground for families who needed help or basic information in the initial hours after this appalling disaster was not good enough."

As well as the official response to the disaster being criticised, May has come under pressure personally for failing to meet residents in person at the scene.

She met emergency personnel at the base of the tower on Thursday, spoke with victims in hospital on Friday, and later that day spoke with residents and volunteers in the nearby St Clement's Church in a third private visit. The latter visit coincided with angry protests outside the church, which May left to chants of "coward".

"I have heard the concerns and I have ordered immediate action across the board to help victims' relatives and the survivors," today's statement said.

"People lost everything in the fire and were left in only the clothes they were wearing.

"I can confirm that a £5 million emergency fund that I announced yesterday is now being distributed on the ground so people can buy clothes, food and other essentials. If more funding is required, it will be provided."

The prime minister said all residents left homeless would be found a home nearby in three weeks, and that she had requested daily progress reports on the issue.

"There have been huge frustrations that people do not know who to talk to, that they can't get through on the council hotlines," her statement continued.

"I have ordered that more staff be deployed across the area, wearing high visibility clothing, so they can easily be found, dispense advice and ensure the right support is provided. Phone lines will have more staff."

May said the public inquiry she has ordered will be open and transparent, and that ministers will cooperate fully. The judge in charge of the inquiry will be announced in the coming days, she said.

"Victims have concerns their voice will not be heard, that their many questions about this tragedy will not be answered," May said.

"It has been decided today that the public inquiry will report back to me personally. As prime minister, I will be responsible for implementing its findings."

The prime minister said all councils had been ordered to conduct urgent safety checks on all high rise blocks similar to Grenfell Tower, to reassure residents.

"The fire at Grenfell Tower was an unimaginable tragedy for the community, and for our country," the statement concluded. "My government will do whatever it takes to help those affected, get justice and keep our people safe."

–Matthew Champion

Posted at

The family of the first victim of the Grenfell Tower fire to be officially identified have paid tribute to him.

Mohammad Alhajali was a Syrian refugee who arrived in the UK in 2014. He had been studying civil engineering in London and had dreamed of returning home to rebuild his country. His brother Omar survived the fire.

Mohammad's family said in a statement: "Mohammad was a very amazing and kind person. He gave love to everyone. He came to the UK because he had ambitions and aims for his life and for his family. Our whole family will miss Mohammad dearly and he will never be forgotten. To God we belong and to him we return."

–Matthew Champion

Posted at

Metropolitan police commander Stuart Cundy has announced that 58 people are presumed dead after the Grenfell Tower fire. This figure includes the deaths of 30 people already announced, and the 16 people whose bodies have been recovered to the mortuary.

Twenty-eight people are missing, presumed dead, a Metropolitan police spokesperson later clarified.

Fifty-two families are being supported by family liaison officers, Cundy said, adding that 19 people remain in hospital, 10 of which are receiving critical care.

He told journalists in the shadow of Grenfell that the death-toll could increase further still if people were in the tower that night of the fire that police are not aware of.

Cundy asked for anyone who escaped the tower but hadn't made it known to contact police: "I don't care the reason you haven't told us so far. I want to know and we all want to know you are safe and well."

He added: "Whilst I sincerely hope that our work over the coming days means that we able to say that less people are confirmed as having died, I also have to consider the sad reality that this may rise."

He confirmed that the first victim of the fire to be named, 23-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammad Alhajali, had been officially identified.

Cundy added that police would release images from inside the tower tomorrow, once they had informed families that they were planning on doing so.

–Ikran Dahir

Posted at

The prime minister is holding a private meeting with victims, volunteers and community leaders from the Grenfell Tower disaster at Number 10 Downing Street.

Theresa May has been criticised for not meeting with survivors, but this is her fourth private visit with those affected by the disaster.

Speaking outside Number 10 after the meeting, a representative of the group said: "I will make this very brief. We will not be making a full statement, we will be making this in the community with the community. We had two and half hours with the prime minister. I spoke about our demands and what we expect. You will hear from us in due course."

–Matthew Champion

Posted at

Pressure is mounting on Theresa May over her response to the Grenfell Fire disaster, with some of her closest allies forced to defend her.

First secretary of state Damian Green said the prime minister was "distraught" over the fire after she was criticised for not visiting residents sooner.

Writing in The Times, former Tory MP Matthew Parris said May was "not viable", while many people online shared a cartoon from the same newspaper encapsulating the criticism of May's response.

Read more, including details on May's awkward interview with Newsnight, here.

–Matthew Champion

Posted at

Corbyn writes to May over public inquiry

I have written to @Theresa_May regarding the decision to hold a full and independent public inquiry into the fire a… https://t.co/gqL9W2v30G

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has written to prime minister Theresa May over her promise to hold a public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire.

In his letter, he expresses concerns that the inquiry could delay any parallel legal actions by families affected by the disaster, and says legal aid must be made available for them to do so.

Corbyn also backs mayor of London Sadiq Khan's call for an interim report to be produced this summer.

–Matthew Champion

Posted at

Pressure is growing on the authorities over the circumstances that led to and the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Here are seven questions that the public inquiry ordered by prime minister Theresa May must answer:

  1. What role did the cladding play in the rapid spread of the fire?

  2. Where did the materials used in the refurbishment come from and who ordered them?

  3. Why did the type of cladding change to a more flammable type of material during the planning process?

  4. Were previous warnings ignored? And if so, by whom?

  5. Were residents' concerns about fire safety ignored?

  6. Isn't an inquest better than a public inquiry anyway?

  7. Who is liable for all this?

Read more here.

–Patrick Smith

Posted at

A man has been jailed for three months for taking photos of the body of a man who died in the Grenfell Tower fire, and posting them on Facebook.

Omega Mwaikambo, 43, was arrested on Wednesday, the day the fire tore through the west London tower block.

He pleaded guilty to two offences under the Communications Act and was jailed for 12 weeks at Westminster magistrates' court on Friday.

Read more here.

–Matthew Champion.