Thursday, June 15, 2017

UK: Grenfell Tower – Calls for 'corporate manslaughter' charges and full-scale investigation

At least 17 people have died in the Grenfell Tower fire, although the death toll is still expected to rise, emergency services have said.

Specialist urban search and rescue teams are being brought in to make the 24-storey tower block safe in north Kensington to allow firefighters and the police to carry out investigations, following the devastating blaze that started in the early hours of Wednesday.

Commander Stuart Cundy, of the Metropolitan Police, said: "Sadly I can confirm that the number of people who have died is now 17. "We do believe that that number will sadly increase."

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said: "This will be a detailed fingertip search. Obviously this will be a very slow and painstaking process."

More than £1 million has been raised to help those affected as fire tore through the 24-storey building while volunteers and charities helped feed and shelter people who could not return to their homes overnight.

Prime Minister Theresa May visited the scene earlier to speak with emergency services. She was whisked away by car shortly after 10am without speaking to reporters.

Jeremy Corbyn said "the truth has got to come out" as he visited those affected by the Grenfell Tower blaze.

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.

One focus for the investigation will be the building's cladding, which TV architect George Clarke said may have accelerated the blaze.

Kensington and Chelsea Council admitted it had received complaints over the works, after a residents' action group said its warnings about safety had fallen on "deaf ears". The Council's lawyers threatened to  sue the residents for their blog.

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. Concerns had also been raised about exposed gas pipes weeks before the devastating blaze.

72 Tory MP's had previously voted down Labour proposals to insist on proper fire and safety regulations for high rise buildings.

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