Grenfell fire: Death toll rises to 30 with number expected to increase

Here are the latest updates:

The Metropolitan Police have confirmed that at least 30 people are dead after the tragic fire in the Grenfell Tower, with that number expected to rise.

24 people are being treated in hospital and 12 are in a critical condition.

Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cindy said: ‘Sadly we always knew the number of those who died would increase.

‘I’m able to say in this point in time we know that at least 30 people have died as a result of this fire.

‘Sadly and tragically that includes one person who was taken to hospital and, despite the very best medical care from the NHS, has now sadly died.’

He added that some of the bodies were yet to be recovered from inside the tower.

Theresa May is set to visit the victims later today, after failing to interact with residents during a ‘private visit’ yesterday.

The tragic news comes as anger grows over why the disaster was allowed to happen.

Sadiq Khan yesterday faced a backlash from angry residents – including children – as anger grows over the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.

The London Mayor was heckled by angry crowds as he visited the devastated tower.

The blaze devastated the high rise in West Kensington (PA)

As tempers flared, a television news anchor was forced to apologise for the bad language during a live broadcast after two members of the crowd exchanged angry words.

“People are angry and I share that anger,” Mr Khan said, following heckles from the crowd.

He then turned to Kai Ramos, seven, who was sitting on top of someone’s shoulders, and asked to shake the little boy’s hand.

But he asked the Labour politician: “How many children died? What are you going to do about it?”

Mr Khan replied: “The bad news, I’m afraid, is lots of people died in the fire. There are a lot of brave firefighters and police and ambulance workers. And once it’s safe, they are going to go into the building.”

The child repeated: “What are you going to do about it?

Kai, who was with his mother Jade, then asked: “What are you going to do with people’s life? They lost their home.”

Mr Khan answered: “We need to know they have somewhere to live.”

The death toll

The blaze devastated the high rise in Kensington (PA)

 Searches for people missing in the Grenfell Tower inferno are continuing frantically as a police commander expressed hope the death toll would not hit triple figures.

 

Dozens are thought to be unaccounted for since the blaze, which police fear was so devastating that some victims may never be identified.

Twelve bodies have so far been recovered from the gutted 24-storey tower, while more have been located inside, but cannot yet be removed.

Meanwhile, experts have said sprinklers could have been fitted in the tower for £200,000, but Nick Paget-Brown, the Tory leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, said there was not a “collective view” among residents in favour of installing them.

Syrian Mohammed Alhajali has been named as the first victim

One of the first victims was named as 23-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali, with the Syria Solitary Campaign director Kareen El Beyrouty launching a campaign towards funeral costs.

The appeal said: “Mohammed Alhajali undertook a dangerous journey to flee war in Syria, only to meet death here in the UK, in his own home.

“His dream was to be able to go back home one day and rebuild Syria.”

Friends and family of artist Khadija Saye say she was killed in the fire. 

Khadija Saye was killed in the tower

Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy responded to speculation that the number of dead could exceed 100, saying: “From a personal perspective, I really hope it isn’t.

“For those of us that have been down there, it’s pretty emotional, so I hope it is not triple figures, but I can’t be drawn on the numbers,” he added, his voice cracking.

He added: “It may be – and I just don’t know – it may be that ultimately some victims remain unidentified.

Widespread appeals continue for those lost since the fire, including children such as 12-year-old Jessica Urbano, and whole families, including Rania Ibrahim and her two daughters Fathia, five, and Hania, three.

Rory joined volunteers helping out with donations (Rex)

Rory joined volunteers helping out with donations (Rex)

More than £1million has already been raised to support those affected by the disaster.

The Muslim community has come in for particular praise, because many young men who were awake when the fire started because of Ramadan rushed to help.

Concerns over cladding

Anger over the blaze has been directed at the type of external cladding used, with claims that the material caught fire and enabled the blaze to spread rapidly.

The type of cladding used is banned in the US, reports said on Friday.

It has also emerged that fireproof cladding could have been installed during the tower’s refurbishment last year at a cost of just £5,000.

Hundreds of towers and buildings around the country have similar cladding on their exterior – which it is thought to be used for three main reasons: insulation, to improve a building’s environmental rating; and because it makes the building look nicer.

The exterior cladding, which was added in 2015, had a core instead of an even more fireproof alternative, according to BBC Newsnight.

Residents who escaped the fatal Grenfell Tower fire spoke of the cladding going “up like a matchstick”, while TV architect George Clarke said: “There’s a new cladding system put on the outsides (of the block of flats) that looks like a new skin. There’s an air gap, an insulation behind that; to me that looks like a fantastic chimney for the fire to rage around.”

Rydon, the company which completed the renovations, has said the work met all fire regulations, building control and safety standards have been met.

Harley Facades, the company that fitted the panels to the building, said: “At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.”

On Friday, Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid tried to reassure people living in similar high-rise blocks who fear they may be at risk or are living in a building which is covered in flammable cladding.

He said: “There are about 4,000 high-rise buildings in the country but not all of them have been re-cladded but also let’s not just make the assumption that it is all about cladding.

“We need to be led by the experts and as soon as we have more information from the experts, which we expect either later today or certainly over the weekend that is what I think should be used to do these emergency inspections.”

Council chiefs pledged to carry out extra fire safety checks at some high-rise tower blocks across London amid concerns more buildings could be at risk.

Political ramifications

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who met displaced families, has suggested luxury properties lying empty in Kensington should be taken over by the Government and used to house the Grenfell Tower residents.

His call comes as an emergency government funding scheme was launched to help meet the costs of the disaster.

The Prime Minister has ordered a full public inquiry into the disaster in response to mounting anger that the fire might have been preventable.

But her call was overshadowed by her refusal to meet residents in the area.

Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, was photographed talking to and comforting friends and family of victims.

Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn comforts a local resident at St Clement’s Church in west London. (Photo: David Mirzoeff – WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to Dany Cotton, Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade. (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Criminal investigation

On Thursday police also confirmed they had launched a criminal investigation into the matter.

It followed calls for those involved in the building’s recent renovation – which many claim posed a major safety risk – to face prosecution.

“We as the police have started an investigation, I mentioned when I was down at the scene this morning that one of our very senior investigating officers is leading that for us,” the commander 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.”

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

Grenfell Tower

The building was used for homes and a boxing club (PA)

Around 400 people were reported missing, but Mr Cundy downplayed the figure, saying it added up to more people than actually lived in the block. One person was reported missing 46 times, he added.

Police urged anyone still concerned about a missing loved one to visit the reception area at the Westway Sports Centre, west London, or ring the casualty bureau on 0800 0961 233.

Those who reported a friend or relative as missing but have since been reunited with them were also asked to get in touch with police.