Search­ing for sur­vivors in London

First vic­tim in high­rise blaze identi ed as in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gins

Metro Canada (Toronto) - - NEWS -

London fire­fight­ers combed through a burned-out pub­lic hous­ing tower Thurs­day in a grim search for miss­ing peo­ple as po­lice and the prime min­is­ter launched in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the deadly in­ferno, with pres­sure build­ing on of­fi­cials to ex­plain the dis­as­ter and as­sure that sim­i­lar build­ings around the coun­try are safe.

At least 17 peo­ple were killed as flames raced through the 24-story Gren­fell Tower early Wed­nes­day, trap­ping peo­ple in­side their apart­ments. Many peo­ple re­mained un­ac­counted for Thurs­day, and of­fi­cials weren’t sure ex­actly how many were miss­ing. But they ex­pected the death toll to rise sig­nif­i­cantly.

London Po­lice said an in­ves­ti­ga­tion had been launched to de­ter­mine whether the blaze in­volved any crimes and Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May an­nounced a pub­lic in­quiry, a type of probe that’s used to in­ves­ti­gate is­sues of ma­jor pub­lic con­cern. In ad­di­tion, London Mayor Sadiq Khan called for an in­terim re­port on the fire to be pub­lished this sum­mer.

“Peo­ple de­serve an­swers. The in­quiry will give them that,” said May, the Con­ser­va­tive leader who set aside her ef­forts to form a new gov­ern­ment Thurs­day to visit the scene of the blaze.

An angry crowd con­fronted Khan as he vis­ited the high-rise.

“How many chil­dren died? What are you go­ing to do about it?” asked 7-year-old Kai Ramos. As the boy pressed, the Labour politi­cian pledged to get an­swers.

The tower is in the North Kens­ing­ton neigh­bour­hood, a work­ing-class, multi-eth­nic area next to some of the rich­est neigh­bour­hoods in Bri­tain. Some ob­servers asked whether haz­ards in the Gren­fell com­plex, which had 120 apart­ments that housed as many as 600 peo­ple, were ig­nored be­cause its res­i­dents are mainly poor.

A ten­ant group had com­plained for years about the risk of a fire in the build­ing, owned by the lo­cal gov­ern­ment in the bor­ough of Kens­ing­ton and Chelsea.

Fire safety en­gi­neers were stunned at how rapidly the fire spread, en­gulf­ing the build­ing in less than an hour in the mid­dle of the night and pre­vent­ing fire­fight­ers from reach­ing many peo­ple in­side. Some jumped to their deaths rather than face the flames, and wit­nesses re­ported see­ing small chil­dren thrown from the tower by their fam­i­lies in a des­per­ate bid to sur­vive.

Fire­fight­ers try­ing to race into the build­ing were pro­tected from the fall­ing de­bris by po­lice of­fi­cers who placed riot shields over their heads.

Queen El­iz­a­beth II praised the fire­fight­ers’ brav­ery, and their com­mis­sioner noted the trauma they had seen. One of­fi­cer was in tears af­ter see­ing some­one plunge out a win­dow, Fire Com­mis­sioner Dany Cot­ton told Sky News.

“We like to think of our­selves as ‘roughty, toughty’ and he­roes - they are he­roes - but they have feel­ings. Peo­ple were ab­so­lutely dev­as­tated by yes­ter­day’s events,” Cot­ton said.

In ad­di­tion to those killed, am­bu­lance crews took 74 peo­ple to hos­pi­tals af­ter the fire. Thirty were still hos­pi­tal­ized on Thurs­day, with 15 in crit­i­cal con­di­tion.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The scorched fa­cade of the Gren­fell Tower in London, af­ter a mas­sive fire raced through the build­ing.

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