Anger grows over safety failures

map showing Grenfell Tower in London, site of a huge fire, with details of the tower.

Anger is mounting over a litany of failings that led to the Grenfell Tower disaster, as fears grow that the death toll could soar to more than 100.

As Theresa May stands accused of failing to show humanity during a visit to the blaze site, emergency services are beginning a third day of picking through the west London block’s charred remains in search of bodies.

Yesterday morning The Queen and Prince William visited some of the people affected by the blaze at a rest centre, while May made a private visit to a London hospital to speak to survivors.

More than 70 people remain unaccounted for since the blaze, which police say they fear was so devastating that some victims might never be identified.

Thirty people are confirmed to have died – some of whom have been provisionally identified – but the figure is expected to rise significantly.

Twelve people remain critically ill in hospital.

Teams were forced to leave the 24-storey building on Thursday afternoon when the fire restarted, delaying further the efforts to reach upper floors, where many victims are thought to have been trapped.

The prime minister has ordered a full public inquiry into the disaster in response to mounting anger that a series of loopholes had left the inhabitants vulnerable, despite repeated warnings over the last 30 years.

May has been accused by former cabinet minister Michael Portillo of failing to show humanity during her visit to the scene by refusing to meet survivors as she wanted a “controlled situation” by only meeting rescue crews.

Unlike opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and London mayor Sadiq Khan, who was confronted by a young boy asking, “How many children died?“, May did not meet with residents and this struck locals, commentators and fellow Conservative party members as insensitive.

“She should have been there with the residents,” Portillo said.

“You have to be prepared to receive people’s emotions, and not be so frightened about people.”

When asked about why she had not met residents or visit a local community centre, May said she had wanted to visit the scene to be briefed by the emergency services.

It has emerged that there have been no updates to Britain’s building fire safety regulations for more than a decade.

Particular concerns have been raised about the cladding on the outside of buildings for a number of years, which experts said might have accelerated the inferno that consumed the block in just 15 minutes.

It has since emerged that the United States had banned the type of cladding thought to have been used on Grenfell Tower.

After Khan was heckled by an angry crowd demanding answers, more than 1 800 people are said to have attended a Westminster rally last night.

A Labour MP has described the Grenfell Tower disaster as “corporate manslaughter” and called for arrests to be made. David Lammy said the fire in north Kensington was an outrage.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “This is the richest borough in our country treating its citizens in this way. “We should call it what it is, it’s corporate manslaughter, that’s what it is and there should be arrests made.” He also said he had heard nothing from family friend Khadija Saye, 24, since the fire.

“As the seconds pass we grow more sad and bleak,” he said.

Residents’ groups have claimed they voiced concerns about the safety of the building, which had been recently refurbished, while those who escaped complained their fire alarms had not been set off by the blaze. Locals were expected to stage a protest march in Kensington, where social housing tenants live cheek by jowl with billionaires in one of Europe’s richest districts, yesterday afternoon, while a rally to demand justice for the victims was due in the Westminster government district last night.

While the disaster has prompted an outpouring of generosity, there was also anger at politicians as the charred tower was cast as a deadly symbol of a divided society where the poor are neglected and the rich pampered.

British newspapers, including those which backed May in the June 8 election, sharpened their criticism of the government. They cited a series of unanswered issues, including whether the cladding used on the building helped the blaze spread.

Planning documents detailing the refurbishment of the block did not refer to a type of fire barrier that building safety experts said should be used when high-rise blocks are being reclad.

“Now the anger – furious locals demand answers”, was the headline in The Sun, while The Daily Telegraph ran with “Sorrow turns to anger” under a picture of two girls in an emotional embrace.

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