Local residents and survivors of West London’s Grenfell Tower fire are looking for answers surrounding the deadly incident that has left over 60 people dead and many missing.
The Guardian reports the death toll has risen to 79, with only five people formally identified and 17 listed in critical condition. The fire happened at the public housing building early Wednesday morning (June 14), while some residents were sleeping and others, awake in light of Ramadan. Witness accounts have circulated online, with new details about the treatment of the building and its residents.
Witnesses have collectively shared concerns about Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organization (KCTMO), a for-profit company that handles the building. From fire safety to tower upkeep, petitions were signed in efforts to receive better treatment from the landlords were to the wayside.
City Lab reports the city’s efforts for affordable housing may have been a key component in how the fire spread throughout the building. Witness accounts claimed a faint sound of an alarm went off around 1:30 am, but with alarms in the building sounding off on a floor-by-floor basis, the sound may not have been heard by all the residents in the 24-story floor. There were also no sprinklers installed in the 30-year-old building. The Atlantic notes residents were recommended to stay indoors if a fire broke out.
— EL4C (@EL4JC) June 14, 2017
Commander Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan police told reporters Monday (June 19) authorities spend the weekend in the building looking for the dead. “Over the last 48 hours a huge amount of effort has been undertaken by our investigators to understand as completely as we possibly can just how many people are missing who were in Grenfell Tower that night,” he said. “If they are missing I do presume sadly that they are also dead. Our teams have been throughout the whole building from the top to the bottom.”
He also mentioned that dental records will be used to identify victims, but due to the high intensity of the fire it could be nearly impossible. Residents also hailed from all around the world, adding more difficulty in tracking down the records.
“It is so important to me that the families have every confidence in our identification procedure and processes so they know it is their loved ones being returned to them and that is why it is so exhaustive,” Cundy added. “And it can be very time consuming, but my absolute commitment to all the families and the loved ones of those that died is that we will do this as quickly as possible.”
London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, called the fire a “preventable accident,” and blamed the government’s lack of care towards the poor. “There is a feeling from the community that they have been treated badly,” he said. “Some of them are poor, some may come from deprived backgrounds, some of them may be asylum seekers and refugees. There is a feeling that the council and successive Governments don’t understand their concerns and frankly don’t care.”
So far, it hasn’t been reported what started the fire but cladding used in a recent renovation could have played a role. “My understanding is the cladding in question, this flammable cladding which is banned in Europe and the US, is also banned here,” Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said in a recent interview with BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show. “So there are two separate questions. One, are our regulations correct, do they permit the right kind of materials and ban the wrong kind of materials? The second question is were they correctly complied with?”
Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May informed the public that £5 million ($6.4 million) will be dispersed to victims of the fire. Police have also opened up a criminal investigation.