BRITAIN: FEARS THAT MORE THAN 100 PEOPLE ARE DEAD IN TOWER INFERNO.

 

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Article posted  by: White Nation  correspondent London June 16  2017

 

 

 

BRITAIN

 

 

‘We may NEVER know who they are’: Rescuers brace relatives that bodies could remain unidentified as police launch criminal investigation into the the deaths amid fears toll could be in ‘hundreds’

17 PEOPLE  are known to have died in tower block blaze – although death toll is expected to rise significantly. London Labour MP David Lammy called for arrests and said he feared ‘hundreds’ may have died .Police today confirmed they have launched a criminal investigation. They may look at manslaughter charges . Fire crews have managed to get to the top of the tower but not enter flats because it is too precarious. London fire chief said today that it would be ‘miracle‘ if anyone was still alive in the burnt-out building. A full inspection of the building will be carried out to work out whether it is safe for recovery to continue. Theresa May is visiting the site today, amid claims ministers turned a blind eye to fire safety concerns . Seventy eight people were taken to hospital, with 18 of those fighting for lives in critical conditions

A criminal investigation has been launched into the Grenfell Tower blaze as police revealed some of the victims of the fire might never be identified. Scotland Yard Commander Stuart Cundy said searching the gutted tower block might take months and he hoped the death toll would not run into ‘triple figures’.The criminal probe came amid increasing political pressure that those involved in the building’s recent redevelopment should face prosecution. London Labour MP David Lammy today labelled the fire ‘corporate manslaughter’ and called for arrests to be made. He said of a missing friend of his: ‘We hope and pray that she is amongst them (in hospital) and not perished in that building as I suspect hundreds will have done by the end of this count.’  Prime Minister Theresa May, who visited the site today, has ordered a full public inquiry into the disaster.

Grenfell Tower in west London this morning. Fire chiefs say it would be a 'miracle' if anyone left inside is still alive. Firefighters have reached the top but have been unable to enter flats and room because the building is too unstable
Grenfell Tower in west London this morning. Fire chiefs say it would be a ‘miracle’ if anyone left inside is still alive. Firefighters have reached the top but have been unable to enter flats and room because the building is too unstable
Pictures of the tower today show the burnt-out flats on the upper floors, which are now blackened hulks with little left intact
Pictures of the tower today show the burnt-out flats on the upper floors, which are now blackened hulks with little left intact
The remains of a family's kitchen table and chairs were visible through the burned out walls of one of the flats today
The remains of a family’s kitchen table and chairs were visible through the burned out walls of one of the flats today
Prime Minister Theresa May visited the site of the burnt-out building this morning after vowing a full investigation
Prime Minister Theresa May visited the site of the burnt-out building this morning after vowing a full investigation

Shocking footage has emerged of the debris-strewn hallway inside the building, where bodies were seen laying on the floor.

Commander Cundy said: ‘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. ‘This will need to be a lot of work between us and other investigating agencies to establish what has happened and why and that is going to take a considerable period of time.‘ The death toll currently stands at 17, but Commander Cundy refused to say what it is expected to rise to. He added: ‘It may be – and I just don’t know – it may be that ultimately some victims remain unidentified. ‘I won’t know that until we’ve gone through the full recovery from Grenfell Tower and we know exactly what we’ve got and I anticipate that is going to take a considerable period of time. ‘Not just the immediate recovery of the bodies we have found but the full search of that whole building we could be talking weeks we could be talking months – it is a very long process.

During the chaotic first day of the investigation, the police’s casualty bureau was said to have received 5,000 calls.

The criminal investigation rose today as:

  • The death toll is expected to soar as rescuers piece their way through the ruined flats where more than 400 people were living when the fire ripped through.
  • Prime Minister Theresa May visited the site and ordered a full public inquiry into the blaze after it was claimed ministers were warned over the cladding suspected to have helped the fire spread.
  • Two young girls, part of a family of five who lived on the tower’s 20th floor, were found by relatives in a London hospital. Their mother, father and six-month-old baby sister are still missing.
  • Three generations of one family are missing after three girls, a mother and father and grandmother were caught up in the blaze. 
  • Bosses of the company running the building and those who carried out recent refurbishment work were challenged to explain whether new cladding led it to go up ‘like a firelighter’ in around 15 minutes. 
  • More than £1 million has been raised to help those affected by the fire, while volunteers and charities have helped feed and shelter people who could not return to their homes. 
  • The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, who live in the London borough, donated to the fund set up to help those affected, and the Queen offered her condolences to victims’ families.
Firefighters have been unable to enter rooms and flats on the top floors, where many are feared to have died during the blaze

Firefighters have been unable to enter rooms and flats on the top floors, where many are feared to have died during the blaze

There is anger among those living in the area that the fire spread through the building so quickly on Tuesday night

There is anger among those living in the area that the fire spread through the building so quickly on Tuesday night

There is anger among those living in the area that the fire spread through the building so quickly on Tuesday night

There are real fears that that nobody who lived on the top three residential floors may have survived the unprecedented fire 

There are real fears that that nobody who lived on the top three residential floors may have survived the unprecedented fire . London fire chief Dany Cotton said full searches of the upper floors, where no one is said to have survived, are yet to be carried out. Parts of it will need to be shored up before rescue workers can enter. She told reporters: ‘Tragically now we are not expecting to find anyone else alive. The severity and the heat of the fire would mean it is an absolute miracle for anyone to be left alive.’  Describing the situation inside the tower this morning, fire chief Ms Cotton said: ‘Some of the internal structures are not regarded as safe at the moment, however the central core is, so my firefighters have been up to the top floor last night, they have done the initial brief search from the doorways.’ ‘So although we’ve been up there we haven’t managed to do a comprehensive search and until we can make the building safe then I really don’t want to risk the safety of my firefighters at this moment in time,‘ she added.

Ms Cotton said structural surveyors and urban search and rescue specialists would inspect the building on Thursday and once it was declared safe a full search would take place.  Search and rescue dog teams will then go through the building first before experts carry out a ‘painstaking’ fingertip search of the building which may take weeks, Ms Cotton said.

A brave firefighter is pictured inside the burnt remains of the 27-storey building, as efforts are made to investigate what caused the blaze 
A brave firefighter is pictured inside the burnt remains of the 27-storey building, as efforts are made to investigate what caused the blaze 
A body wrapped up in a blanket, obscured by MailOnline,  lies in the ground floor of the White City tower block largely destroyed by fire over night
A body wrapped up in a blanket, obscured by MailOnline, lies in the ground floor of the White City tower block largely destroyed by fire over night
This aerial photo taken hours after the fire ripped through the tower block shows the devastating scale of the inferno

 This aerial photo taken hours after the fire ripped through the tower block shows the devastating scale of the inferno.

Prime Minister Theresa May visited the scene of the tragedy this morning and spoke with emergency services. She later launched a full public inquiry into the disaster, saying it was needed to ensure ‘this terrible tragedy is properly investigated’.  It emerged today that a six-month-old baby is among the missing. The baby girl’s mother Farah Hamdan and father Omar Belkadi have also not been seen since the fire but her older sisters, eight-year-old Malek Belkadi and Tamzin, six, were found in a London hospital. A family of six are also missing after they were caught up in the blaze. Relatives are searching for Nadia, 29, and Bassem Choucair, 38, their three young girls, Mierna, 13, Zaynab, ten, and Fatima, three, and grandmother Sirra.

Five-year-old Isaac Shawo was also lost as his family tried to flee their 18th floor flat. He was holding the hand of a neighbor but disappeared as his parents and brother Luca, three, stumbled down a fire escape. Choking back tears, his mother Mrs Shawo said: ‘I will not fear the worse, I am still hoping and praying for him. He is a beautiful boy. He told us during the fire that he didn’t want us to die. ‘My neighbour said he would hold him and bring him down. But when I got outside I realised Isaac wasn’t there.

Little Tamzin Belkadi, six, has been located in a hospital by relatives after her family went missing in the Grenfell Tower fire

Malek Belkadi, eight, has been located in a hospital by relatives

Little Tamzin Belkadi, six, (left) and her older sister Malek (right) have been located in a hospital by relatives after their family went missing in the Grenfell Tower fire.

Mierna, 13, Zaynab, ten, and Fatima Choucair, three, are missing along with their mother Nadia (left, below), father Bassem Choucair and grandmother Sirra

Mother Nadia, part of a family of six who are missing

Mierna, 13, Zaynab, ten, and Fatima Choucair, three, are missing along with their mother Nadia (right), father Bassem Choucair and grandmother Sirra.
Isaac Shawo has been missing since his family fled their 18th floor flat. It is feared he got lost in the thick smoke
Isaac Shawo has been missing since his family fled their 18th floor flat. It is feared he got lost in the thick smoke. It emerged overnight that ministers were warned numerous times over the cladding that turned the Grenfell Tower into an inferno but ignored the advice of fire experts.

Queen praises rescuers and says she is praying for families of victims

The Queen has paid tribute to the ‘bravery’ of firefighters who have battled the Grenfell Tower fire. She also praised the ‘incredible generosity’ of volunteers offering their support to those affected. In a statement from Buckingham Palace, the Queen said: ‘My thoughts and prayers are with those families who have lost loved ones in the Grenfell Tower fire and the many people who are still critically ill in hospital. ‘Prince Philip and I would like to pay tribute to the bravery of firefighters and other emergency services officers who put their own lives at risk to save others. ‘It is also heartening to see the incredible generosity of community volunteers rallying to help those affected by this terrible event.’The Home Office was handed a damning report after hundreds of residential tower blocks were surveyed in the 1990s – but did nothing.

The study, carried out by architect Sam Webb, found that half of the buildings inspected did not meet basic fire safety regulations. Fire expert Mr Webb described the state of Britain’s tower blocks as a ‘disaster waiting to happen’. He told the Guardian: ‘We discovered a widespread breach of safety, but were simply told nothing could be done because it would make too many people homeless.’Fears have since emerged that new plastic cladding was a main factor in the fire and caused the tower to ‘light up like a matchstick’. The rain-proof cladding was installed at the block in White City, west London, in May 2016 as part of a £10million refurbishment but claims say it helped the fire spread quickly from the fourth to 24th floor.

The former chairman of the tenancy organisation connected to Grenfell said the fire was a ‘scandal’ that could have been avoided.  Reg KerrBell said he stood down from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenancy Management Organisation (KTMO) several years ago over his concerns about the way it was run.  He said: ‘This is a scandal. This is one of the biggest scandals in the country – and it could have been avoided.’He added: ‘This refurbishment contract should never have been managed by KTMO. It was too big for them. My great concern was about the viability of the project.’He said he met a former director two days ago to discuss his concerns.

Mr Kerr-Bell added: ‘We felt there was a disaster waiting to happen and we were going to have a meeting with the MP so that we could put these concerns to them. ‘That was two days ago and today he phoned me and said: ‘You will not believe what is going on’. ‘It is not going to finish with this – this is just the start.’  Bodies were strewn through Grenfell Tower including in its lobby and undertakers were seen removing the dead in a delicate and treacherous recovery operation set to last several days. It is believed that the death toll could reach more than 100, but police have said it is not possible to confirm how many people are unaccounted for because the building is still on fire nearly 24 hours after it started.

A wall of condolence was put up near the scene, with photographs showing dozens of messages left for loved ones

A wall of condolence was put up near the scene, with photographs showing dozens of messages left for loved ones

The majority of messages offered condolences  to those affected, others calls for punishment for those deemed responsible

The majority of messages offered condolences to those affected, others calls for punishment for those deemed responsible

Kind-hearted locals have donated thousands of items to the families made homeless by the Tuesday night blaze

Kind-hearted locals have donated thousands of items to the families made homeless by the Tuesday night blaze

Some centres have asked people to stop bringing extra items, after they were overwhelmed by the generosity of locals

Some centres have asked people to stop bringing extra items, after they were overwhelmed by the generosity of locals

Some of those made homeless by the blaze have thanks the  community for their support since the fire destroyed their home

Some of those made homeless by the blaze have thanks the community for their support since the fire destroyed their home

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn won praise today after he visited the scene and spoke to those affected by the disaster

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn won praise today after he visited the scene and spoke to those affected by the disaster

Faces of the missing: Desperate relatives search for information about scores of residents caught up in fire

Relatives and friends of the scores of Grenfell Tower residents who are missing are desperately searching hospitals for them and appealing for information. It is feared scores of residents died when flames engulfed Grenfell Tower in the early hours of yesterday. Those who escaped the blaze have been left trying to find out if relatives, friends and neighbors managed to get out. Among those missing include a family with three young girls, a friend of an MP, a woman who sent a friend a Snapchat video of the blaze at 3am, and another resident told by a firefighter to remain in her flat with her son.

Engineering student Mohammad Alhajali

Jessica Urbano is among the missing. Her cousin is trying to find her

Family members are also trying to find Dennis Murphy
Family say engineering student Mohammad Alhajali died in the blaze. Jessica Urbano (centre) is among the missing. Her cousin is trying to find her. Family members are also trying to find Dennis Murphy (right)
Italian couple Gloria Trevisan and Marco Gottardi lived on the 23rd floor of the tower block and had been in London for three months
Khadija Saye, who lives on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower in west London is also among those who are currently missing
Farah Hamdan and her six-month-old baby are among the missing, along with Ms Hamdan's husband Omar Belkadi

Italian couple Gloria Trevisan and Marco Gottardi lived on the 23rd floor of the tower block and had been in London for three months. Khadija Saye (right), who lives on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower in west London is also among those who are currently missing. Farah Hamdan and her six-month-old baby (right) are among the missing, along with Ms Hamdan’s husband Omar Belkadi

Mariem Elgwahry (pictured) has not been seen by friends since 2am yesterday morning. A friend called Emma Evans said on Facebook that Mariem was on the 19th floor

Mirna, Fatima and Zainab Choucair (centre) are said to have been in the building with their mother, Nadia (right)

Nadia Chouchair is missing, along with her three daughters, husband and mother-in-law

Mariem Elgwahry (pictured) has not been seen by friends since 2am yesterday morning.  Mirna, Fatima and Zainab Choucair (centre) are said to have been in the building with their mother, Nadia (right), father Bassem and grandmother Sirra

Hamid Ali Jafari tweeted asking for any information on his missing father Ali Yawar (pictured), who he says he was separated from on the 12th floor

Nurhuda El-Wahabi

Yasin El-Wahabi

Worried relatives are appealing for information on Ali Yawar(left), Nurhuda El-Wahabi (centre) and Yasin El-Wahabi(right)

Saber Neda who lived in a top-floor flat, is feared dead after the fire ripped through the 24-storey building

Mo Tuccu

Sheila Smith
Saber Neda  who lived on the top floor, is feared dead. Mo Tuccu has not been seen and there are fears for Sheila Smith
Rania Ibrham was trapped in a flat on the 24th floor with her two young children

Mary Mendy, 54

Iranian Hamid Kani, 61,  lived on the 15th floor of the tower block and has been reported missing by relatives

Rania Ibrham and her daughters are missing, as is Mary Mendy, who lived on the 20th floor, and Iranian Hamid Kani

Francis Dean said his sister Zainab told been told by firefighter to remain in her flat on the 14th floor along with her son Jeremiah, 2

Two-year-old Jeremiah was in the 14th floor flat with his mother Zainab Dean and both are still missing

One woman took to social media to appeal for help finding her brother, Hesham Rahman, who lived on the 20th floor
Zainab Dean lived on the 14th floor along with her son Jeremiah, 2 . Hesham Rahman  lived on the 20th floor
Tony Disson, 66, was last in contact with his family at 3am and still inside the building

Tony Disson, 66, (left) was last in contact with his family at 3am and still inside the building. His wife Cordelia and three sons have been searching hospitals all day but have been unable to find him

Fathaya Alsanousi (pictured) was stuck in her 23rd floor flat with her son Abu Feras, 38, and daughter Esra Ibrahim, 35. All three are still missing

Tony Disson, 66,  was last in contact with his family at 3am and still inside the building. Steve Power  is also thought to be missing, as is Fathaya Alsanousiwas stuck in her 23rd floor flat with her son Abu Feras, 38, and daughter Esra Ibrahim, 35.

A series of blunders are being blamed for the disaster with residents claiming there were no working fire alarms, no sprinklers and the only staircase leading to safety was blocked.  Experts were last night focusing their blame for the scale of the disaster on external cladding fitted to the block only last year. It was made from metal panels and slabs of a polystyrene-like material, separated by a small cavity, fixed to the concrete surface of the outside of the tower. Together with new windows, the cladding was meant to boost the building’s energy efficiency, protect against the weather and smarten up the look of the 1970s facade.But it appears to provide a fatal conduit for the flames to leap from one flat to another, with witnesses saying the outside of the block ignited ‘like a firelighter’.

Cladding is a material attached to a building’s frame to create an outer wall (shown in this graphic). The process of applying the rain-proof frontage can create a 25mm-30mm cavity between the cladding and the insulation behind it, shown between the first two layers.

 

How the fire ripped through Grenfell Tower: At 2.05am, left, the blaze was restricted to one side of the building. By 2.35am, centre, it was spreading fast. And by 4.17am, right, the whole block was in flames

By mid morning, the plastic cladding could be seen charred and melted on the tower in west London

By mid morning, the plastic cladding could be seen charred and melted on the tower in west London

Police would not confirm how many people are unaccounted for because the building is still on fire 14 hours after it started (pictured this morning) - 12 are known to be dead but the death toll is likely to be significantly much higher

The blaze has been described as a once in a generation disaster and could prove to one of the worst disasters Britain has seen in recent years

The fire continued to burn all day yesterday. Left, the fire rages early on Wednesday morning, centre, firefighters battle the blaze and right, flames continue to rip through flats in the evening.  There are fears that hundreds of high-rise blocks across the UK are fitted with similar materials – even though MPs warned of the potential fire risk nearly 20 years ago. A report in 1999 by the Environment, Transport and the Regions select committee said: ‘We do not believe that it should take a serious fire in which many are killed before all reasonable steps are taken towards minimising the risks.‘ The MPs highlighted concerns that the air cavity between the layers of cladding can act as a chimney, helping the fire spread rapidly upwards.

Their report demanded that ‘all external cladding systems should be required either to be entirely non-combustible, or to be proved through full-scale testing not to pose an unacceptable level of risk in terms of fire spread’.But the method was popular as councils sought to meet insulation standards laid out under the Blair Government’s £22billionDecent Homes Programme, which ran from 2000 to 2010. It continued to be used even after the 2009 fire at the 14-storey Lakanal House in Camberwell, South East London, which killed six people.

Grenfell Tower before the refurbishment

Grenfell Tower after the refurbishment with the cladding
Grenfell Tower before the refurbishment (left) in 2011 and with the new cladding (right)
Undertakers remove bodies from Grenfell Tower today but the recovery of the dead is likely to take several more days as the fire is still not out

Undertakers remove bodies from Grenfell Tower today but the recovery of the dead is likely to take several more days as the fire is still not out

A body bag on a stretcher is wheeled away from a tower block that was severely damaged by the worst fire of its kind for years
A body bag on a stretcher is wheeled away from a tower block that was severely damaged by the worst fire of its kind for years
Large numbers police are also on the scene recovering bodies being taken away on stretchers this afternoob

Large numbers police are also on the scene recovering bodies being taken away on stretchers this afternoon

Forensics teams and police prepare to enter the lower floors of the Grenfell Tower but the majority of the building is too dangerous to enter

Forensics teams and police prepare to enter the lower floors of the Grenfell Tower but the majority of the building is too dangerous to enter. Sam Webb, a fire safety expert who helped gather evidence after that tragedy, said last night there was a conflict between safety and the materials used to make buildings more energy efficient. ‘They are not fire-resistant and in some cases they’re flammable,‘ he said. Fires involving cladding have also occurred in Australia, Russia and the Arabian Peninsula – adding to the serious safety concerns. They include two in Dubai, one on New Year’s Eve 2015 at the 63-storey The Address Downtown and a second last July at the 75-storey Sulafa Tower.

In Scotland, high-rise blocks are being given safety checks following the London blaze. A spokesman for Aberdeen City Council said checks are already under way on its properties, adding: ‘We ensure our buildings meet required standards and regulations.‘ Tom Barclay, director of property and development at major Glasgow-based housing association the Wheatley Group, said: ‘We want to reassure residents of our multi-storey blocks that we have a robust approach in place to minimise the risk of fire.’

A City of Edinburgh Council spokesman said: ‘Our health and safety team regularly audits multi-storey services. However, as a further precaution we will be carrying out a review of fire safety and evacuation procedures in all of our housing blocks.’ Grenfell Tower was clad last year as part of an £8.6million refurbishment by East Sussex-based builders Rydon, which said yesterday that its work ‘met all required building controls’.Yet the company admits on its website that the insulation material used, Celotex RS5000, ‘will burn if exposed to a fire of sufficient heat and intensity… [and] toxic gases will be released with combustion’.

A drone inspects the top floors of the wrecked tower block, where residents on the highest storeys are all feared dead after being trapped in their homes and then engulfed

A drone inspects the top floors of the wrecked tower block, where residents on the highest stories are all feared dead after being trapped in their homes and then engulfed.

Desperate residents scream for help in this photograph taken in the early minutes before the fire swamped the entire building
Desperate residents scream for help in this photograph taken in the early minutes before the fire swamped the entire building

A heroic dad led his pregnant wife and their two daughters to safety when the flames engulfed their block of flats in the early hours of the morning. Marcio Gomes, 38, wrapped his family in wet towels after being left stranded on the 21st floor of Grenfell Tower in White City, London, as flames surged upwards. When the blaze reached his apartment, he knew it was up to him to save his family’s life so he negotiated the scorched stairways with his loved ones, stepping over bodies on their way down. But when he reached the lower levels, horror struck as he realized his eldest daughter 12-yea-old Luana had not made it all the way down. She had rendered unconscious by the smoke and fumes on the stairwell, and Mr Gomes left his wife Andreia and 10-year-old Megan and ran back into the roaring fire to drag Luana to safety.

Design specifications seen by the Mail suggests Grenfell Tower had 150mm (6in) of Celotex RS5000 insulation and over cladding made from ACM – aluminium composite material – with a 50mm (2in) ‘ventilated cavity’ in between. ACM is also potentially highly flammable and rescuers yesterday faced the hazard of blazing metal panels raining down on them as they tried to enter the building. Arnold Tarling, chartered surveyor and fire expert with property firm Hindwoods, said the air cavity could create a ‘wind tunnel [that] traps any burning material between the rain cladding and the building’.Had there merely been one layer of insulation, this could have fallen off and fallen away from the building but the metal cladding meant it was all contained inside.

Not all insulation used in the process is the more expensive non-flammable type,‘ he said. ‘So basically you have got a cavity with a fire spreading behind it.’Dr Kostas Tsavdaridis, associate professor of structural engineering at the University of Leeds said: ‘The fire seems to have spread inside the building but also outside. ‘Some materials used in facades act as significant fire loads: in most cases they are high-temperature resistant instead of fire resistant. But even if they are, smoke and fire will spread through the joints.’Grenfell Tower was equipped with metal over cladding by Harley Facades Limited, another East Sussex-based firm.

The company, which installed but did not manufacture the panels, said they were a ‘commonly used product’. Managing director Ray Bailey said: ‘At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.’ Celotex, which is based near Ipswich, said: ‘Our records show a Celotex product (RS5000) was purchased for use in refurbishing the building. We will assist with enquiries from the relevant authorities.’Plans for the externals works at Grenfell Tower were approved by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.In May 2016, once work was completed, council leader Nick Paget-Brown said: ‘It is remarkable to see how the cladding has lifted the appearance of the tower and how the improvements inside people’s homes will make a big difference to their lives.’ 

An emotional woman wearing a breathing mask holds her head in despair as she rests on the pavement near the scene of the blaze in west London
An emotional woman wearing a breathing mask holds her head in despair as she rests on the pavement near the scene of the blaze in west London.

Grenfell’s own community action group called for the tower to be pulled down four years ago over ‘appalling’ fire safety in the building and said today their repeated warnings to landlord Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) fell on ‘deaf ears’. KCTMO completed a £10million refurbishment last year and the new cladding encasing the block originally built in 1974 ‘went up like a match’, one resident has said.

Did the building’s new cladding make the fire much worse? 

The cladding used on Grenfell Tower may have exacerbated the fire, it has been claimed. Rainscreen cladding, which was added during the block’s refurbishment, can act as a ‘chimney’ for fires because of its ventilated cavities. Many have speculated as to whether this could have made the fire worse, and led to it spreading quickly and trapping residents. Jack Monroe, a former fire fighter, tweeted about the incident and said: ‘Whoever signed off on that cladding needs to be hauled before a court and held fully accountable for every single fatality and injury.” Chartered surveyor and fire expert Arnold Tarling, from Hindwoods, said that the process can create a 25mm-30mm cavity between the cladding and the insulation. ‘It produces a wind tunnel and also traps any burning material between the rain cladding and the building. ‘So had it been insulated per se, the insulation could fall off and fall away from the building, but this is all contained inside.’

He said not all insulation used in the process is the more expensive non-flammable type. ‘So basically you have got a cavity with a fire spreading behind it.’Rydon carried out an £8.6 million project, completed in May 2016, to modernize the outside of the building, which saw new cladding and windows installed. In a statement, the Sussex-based firm said it was shocked by the ‘devastating’ blaze, adding: ‘Rydon completed a refurbishment of the building in the summer of 2016 for KCTMO (Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation) on behalf of the council, which met all required building control, fire regulation, and health and safety standards. The former chairman of the tenancy organisation connected to Grenfell Tower has described recent refurbishment work as a ‘disaster waiting to happen’.

Reg Kerr-Bell said he stood down from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenancy Management Organisation (TMO) several years ago over his concerns about the way it was run. Just two days before the fatal blaze, he had spoken to a former colleague about their fears. Mr Kerr-Bell said: ‘This is a scandal. This is one of the biggest scandals in the country – and it could have been avoided.’He added: ‘This refurbishment contract should never have been managed by TMO. ‘It was too big for them. My great concern was about the viability of the project.‘ He said he met a former director two days ago to discuss his concerns. ‘We felt there was a disaster waiting to happen and we were going to have a meeting with the MP so that we could put these concerns to them. ‘That was two days ago and today he phoned me and said: ‘You will not believe what is going on’. ‘It is not going to finish with this – this is just the start.’

A spokesman said: ‘It is too early to speculate what caused the fire and contributed to its spread. We will co-operate fully with all the relevant authorities in order to ascertain the cause of this tragedy. ‘We are aware that concerns have been raised historically by residents. We always take all concerns seriously and these will form part of our forthcoming investigations. While these investigations continue with our co-operation, our core priority at the moment is our residents’.NHS England said 74 people are being treated in six hospitals across the capital, of whom 20 are in critical care. Mr Cundy said it is likely to be some time before police can identify the victims, adding that it is too early to speculate on the cause of the fire.

Prime Minister Theresa May was said to be ‘deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life’ and newly appointed police and fire minister Nick Hurd will chair a meeting of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat to co-ordinate the response. London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton told reporters: ‘This is an unprecedented incident. In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never ever seen anything of this scale. Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union said ‘there was no way a fire should develop in this way’.Commenting on residents claims the building was unsafe he said: ‘Firefighters would expect to be able to fight a fire like this from within the building and that there would be a safe exit route available. In this case it was clearly not possible’. Grenfell Tower was built in 1974 and contains 120 flats thought to be home to between 400 and 600 people.

The building was refurbished recently at a cost of £8.6 million, with work completed in May last year. Rydon, the firm that carried it out, said its work ‘met all required building control, fire regulation, and health and safety standards’. London Fire Brigade said the cause of the fire is still being investigated, but several residents reported one man had said it started in his faulty fridge. The brigade said a structural engineer had checked the building and determined it was not in danger of collapse and that rescue teams were safe to be inside. Many traumatic accounts of the fire and its impact have emerged, including a baby being dropped from the tower. A witness said she saw a woman try to save the baby by dropping it from a window ‘on the ninth or 10th floor’ to waiting members of the public below. Residents who escaped complained there had been no fire alarm, with many relying on neighbors to wake them as the blaze spread. They said official advice in the event of a fire had been to stay inside.

Michael Paramasivan, who was in his seventh floor flat with girlfriend Hannah West, 23, and her daughter Thea, five, said: ‘If we’d listened to them and stayed in the flat we’d have perished.’ A residents’ action group said its warnings about safety had fallen on ‘deaf ears’. A blog post from Grenfell Action Group in November said ‘only a catastrophic event’ would expose the concerns residents had. The group said there was one entry and exit to the tower during improvement works and it had issues with evacuation procedures. London mayor Sadiq Khan said: ‘There will be a great many questions over the coming days as to the cause of this tragedy and I want to reassure Londoners that we will get all the answers.’ Witnesses said the fire spread rapidly up the building, with some suggesting it was fuelled by gas.

Mr Paramasivan, 37, told the Press Association: ‘There were explosions everywhere you looked, lots of bangs, blue gas coming out everywhere you looked. ‘About 12 floors up I saw three children waving from a window and then there was just an explosion and they disappeared. ‘They were three kids, they were banging on the windows, you could see their silhouettes and then bang, it just went up.’ Muna Ali, 45, said: ‘The flames, I have never seen anything like it, it just reminded me of 9/11. ‘The fire started on the upper floors … oh my goodness, it spread so quickly, it had completely spread within half an hour.’Robert Black, chief executive of Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, which manages Grenfell, said: ‘The fire at Grenfell Tower is devastating and the reports of injury and losses of life absolutely heartbreaking.’ 

Maintenance firm responsible for Grenfell paid £11M by taxpayer

The company responsible for the safety and maintenance of the block of flats which turned into a raging inferno and killed at least 12 people was paid £11million last year from taxpayer’s money. Grenfell Tower is owned by the Borough Council in Kensington and Chelsea, but the management of the building is the responsibility of an independent company – Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO). Speaking to Nina Hossain on ITV News London the company’s boss Robert Black said: ‘We are in complete shock and condolences for what’s happened today. Our thoughtS are with everybody that is currently affected and still affected.’ 

The heroic servicemen were also hampered by the strict use of self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA), which hold about 30 to 45 minutes of air, depending on the size of the tank and the rate of consumption due to strenuous activities 

The heroic servicemen were also hampered by the strict use of self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA), which hold about 30 to 45 minutes of air, depending on the size of the tank and the rate of consumption due to strenuous activities

A large group of firefighters rest at the scene of the huge fire at Grenfell tower block in White City, London, this morning

A large group of firefighters rest at the scene of the huge fire at Grenfell tower block in White City, London, this morning

More than a hundred police officers were drafted in to help with the rescue operation, with another 100 paramedics also rushed to the scene More than 200 firefighters were dispatched to the fire at Grenfell Tower in an ‘unprecedented‘ response by the capital’s fire service. After arriving on the scene at 2am, firefighters attempted to evacuate as many residents as possible. Those still inside were told to ‘stay put’ as is normal protocol, given that buildings are specifically designed to stop blazes from spreading. But as the fire took hold of the entire building, the heat became so severe that firefighters were unable to enter the tower for several hours between 3am and 7am. In the meantime, firefighters used cherry pickers to douse the flames around those waving for help from windows of their flats. After the fire was subdued at around 12pm, emergency service personnel began moving up through the 27-story structure, and it is understood they have reached up to the 20th floor. Firefighters were given a police escort as they made their way inside the building, with officers tasked with protecting them from falling debris with their riot shields.

Many of the capital's firefighters were deployed to west London to help control the blaze, which has been raging for half a day 

Many of the capital’s firefighters were deployed to west London to help control the blaze, which has been raging for half a day 

Dozens of horrific eyewitness accounts have begun to emerge from the 27-storey tower block fire in White City this morning, with residents claiming people are still stuck inside the building - which houses 600 people.
There have been a 'number of fatalities' at the fire at Grenfell Tower in west London, London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton has told reporters
A woman with six children who was attempting to escape from the 21st floor of the London tower block fire this morning got to the bottom to discover two of them were missing, it has been claimed
Two women console each other (pictured) as the area surrounding the building in west London was cordoned off by police officers

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