Theresa May: support for Grenfell Tower victims ‘was not good enough’ – The Guardian

Theresa May admitted that support for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire “was not good enough” after the Metropolitan police said 58 people are missing and presumed dead in the wake of the disaster in west London.

The new figure means the death toll from the blaze early on Wednesday morning has risen by 28.

The prime minister described the fire an “unimaginable tragedy for the community, and for our country”. In a statement on Saturday evening after meeting 15 victims of the tragedy, volunteers and community leaders, she said: “The response of the emergency services, NHS and the community has been heroic. 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.

“I have heard the concerns and I have ordered immediate action across the board to help victims’ relatives and the survivors. People lost everything in the fire and were left in only the clothes they were wearing.

“I can confirm that a £5m 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.”

Earlier, Met commander Stuart Cundy said the number could rise further. “I really hope it won’t, but it may increase,” he said.

“Our focus has been on those that we know were in Grenfell Tower. However, there may be other people who were in there on the night that others were not aware were there. That is also an absolute priority for the investigation, to establish who they may be.”

Cundy also appealed to anyone who may have escaped from the building but had not yet come forward to make themselves known.

He said the first victim had been formally identified as Mohammed Alhajali, 23 adding 16 bodies had been recovered and taken to a mortuary.

Cundy said the police investigation would be wide-ranging and could lead to prosecutions. “The investigation will identify any criminal offence that has been committed. It will be wide-ranging. It will go to establish the answers of what happened in the fire and how it spread. It will look at the building itself, it will look at the refurbishment as well,” he said.

“Our criminal investigation will identify any criminal offences that have been committed. Wherever we can, we will bring people to justice if there is evidence.”



Anti-government protests across UK in wake of Grenfell fire

Protesters gathered outside the gates of Downing Street on Saturday afternoon as anger over the disaster mounted. Hundreds of protesters descended on Kensington town hall on Friday, with some marching towards Downing Street in central London, chanting: “No justice, no peace.”

After being heckled on Friday afternoon when leaving a west London church, Theresa May was further criticised after she appeared to sidestep a series of questions about her handling of the disaster in an interview with BBC2’s Newsnight.

Emily Maitlis, the interviewer, told the prime minister: “You misread the public mood on this one. You misread the anger that people feel about this.” May responded by repeatedly saying the blaze was “absolutely horrifying” and had been a terrifying experience for those affected.

Damian Green, May’s most senior minister, defended her on Saturday, and said some of the criticism had been “terribly unfair”. “She’s distraught by what happened as we all are. Absolutely, she has the same degree of sympathy and horror at these events that we all have,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.



Theresa May avoids Grenfell Tower questions on Newsnight

Green also reiterated the government’s promise to rehouse those displaced by the fire within three weeks, either in Kensington or neighbouring boroughs.

On Thursday May announced a full public inquiry into the disaster. In Saturday’s statement she added that the inquiry would report back to her personally and that the government would cover victims’ legal costs. “The inquiry will be open and transparent. Government and ministers will cooperate fully. I anticipate the name of the judge will be announced within the next few days and that an open meeting will be held with residents to help shape the terms of reference.”

On Friday, the prime minister announced a £5m fund to help feed, clothe and rehouse the displaced residents of the recently refurbished building, which caught fire in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Green said this would be the start of a larger funding package required to respond to the blaze.

A taskforce made up of representatives of Kensington and Chelsea council and central government would be on the ground on Saturday, he said, but a Cabinet Office spokeswoman was unable to explain exactly what help it would be able to give Grenfell residents.

May was scheduled to chair a meeting of senior officials at Downing Street on Saturday morning before meeting Grenfell residents and volunteers at the prime minister’s residence.



‘I’m afraid to go to sleep’: Grenfell Tower survivor speaks – video

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, called on the government to pay the funeral costs of those who died in the blaze and the travel expenses of relatives who wanted to attend the funerals and the subsequent inquiry into the tragedy.

Search and rescue officers from London fire brigade inside Grenfell Tower on Saturday.



Search and rescue officers from London fire brigade inside Grenfell Tower on Saturday. Photograph: David Mirzoeff/PA

After visiting a relief centre on Friday to speak to Grenfell residents and volunteers, the Queen said it was “difficult to escape a very sombre national mood”.

In an unprecedented message on her official birthday, the monarch said: “In recent months, the country has witnessed a succession of terrible tragedies. As a nation, we continue to reflect and pray for all those who have been directly affected by these events.

“Put to the test, the United Kingdom has been resolute in the face of adversity. United in our sadness, we are equally determined, without fear or favour, to support all those rebuilding lives so horribly affected by injury and loss.”

NHS England said 19 people were being treated in hospital, including 10 in critical care.

Homemade posters appealing for information on people missing since the Grenfell fire.



Posters appeal for information on people missing since the Grenfell fire. Photograph: Hannah Mckay/Reuters

As investigators begin the painstaking work of establishing how the fire started and spread, experts have called for a ban on combustible materials in high-rise buildings. Contractors told the Guardian that panels used to clad Grenfell Tower were the cheaper, more flammable version of two available options.

The MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, has written to the Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, asking her to confirm that the public inquiry May announced on Friday would not impede the force’s criminal investigation.

Theresa May: support for Grenfell Tower victims ‘was not good enough’ – The Guardian

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>