London: London police Sunday released images taken within Grenfell Tower following its devastating fire, as a police chief said conditions inside verged on the “indescribable” and warned the death toll would rise further.
Photos and videos published by the Metropolitan Police show the gutted wreckage of apartments within the 24-storey tower block after Wednesday’s fire. With blackened rubble strewn across the floor and exposed pipes, one room is unrecognisable as a home until a bath and sink come into view — the dividing wall destroyed completely by the fire.
The remnants of an exercise bike, an oven and washing machine point to the lives of residents now shattered by the blaze. “The conditions due to the fire damage verge on indescribable,” said police commander Stuart Cundy, explaining that a full search of the building will take weeks. “We must also prepare people for the terrible reality that some people may not be identified due to the intensity of the fire,” he added.
So far 58 people are presumed dead, although Cundy said this would rise again ahead of new figures being released on Monday. “Sadly that work leads me to believe that the number of people missing, but as yet unaccounted for has risen from yesterday’s figure of 58,” he said, following further work to trace missing people. The images released by police were taken by a recovery team inside flats where everyone inside has been accounted for.
The deadly fire in the social housing block has led to growing public anger. Attending a church service near the building to remember victims, London mayor Sadiq Khan admitted the local community was frustrated at the official response to the disaster. “There is a feeling from the community that they’ve been treated badly because some of them are poor,” Khan said on Sunday.
The tragedy was a “preventable accident that didn’t need to happen and the tragedy we’re seeing is because of the consequences of mistakes and neglect from the politicians, the council and the government”. The 1974-built concrete tower had recently been fitted with new exterior insulation cladding, which many locals blame for spreading the inferno so quickly.
The government has set up a GBP 5 million ($6.4 million, 5.7 million euros) emergency fund for the Grenfell Tower residents, allocating a minimum GBP 5,500 to each household with GBP 500 cash payments already being handed out.
Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a judge-led public inquiry into the disaster. In parallel, the police are seeking to identify if any criminal offences had been committed. Finance minister Philip Hammond said the inquiry would examine whether the regulations banning certain types of cladding were right and whether they were complied with. “That will be a subject that the inquiry will look at. It will also be a subject that the criminal investigation will be looking at,” he told BBC television.
Father’s Day cards were among the tributes left close to the blackened shell of the tower on Sunday. Firefighters leaving the scene were greeted by cheers and applause. A minute’s silence will be held at 11:00am (1000 GMT) across Britain on Monday to remember the victims.
Only one victim has been formally identified so far: 23-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammad Alhajali. He came to Britain in 2014 with his older brother Omar. Alhajali was a civil engineering student at West London University and lived on the 14th floor. The Home Office interior ministry has made contact with his family and is assisting them in travelling to Britain.
Omar — who was with his brother in the flat — survived the fire after they were separated on the way out. The Sunday Times described the disaster as “a massive safety failure” and “avoidable”. “For those victims not to have died in vain, we have to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again,” the broadsheet said.
The Sun called the inferno “the most unforgivable tragedy of our age. “The anger that such an appalling thing could happen in a modern capital city is entirely justified.” The Sunday Telegraph urged May to communicate leadership. “After a tragedy of truly national dimensions like this, the prime minister cannot simply behave like a grey-faced executive at a company who has been confronted by a public relations foul-up.”
Meanwhile pop music mogul Simon Cowell was organising a recording Sunday of Simon and Garfunkel’s hit “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in a bid to raise money to help those caught up in the blaze. Emeli Sande, Stereophonics singer Kelly Jones, Rita Ora, Leona Lewis and Pixie Lott were among those taking part.