79 pre­sumed dead in Lon­don ‘in­ferno’

5 for­mally ID’d

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

LON­DON, June 19, (Agen­cies): Seventy-nine peo­ple are dead or miss­ing and pre­sumed dead fol­low­ing a dev­as­tat­ing blaze in a Lon­don tower, po­lice said Mon­day, as Britain held a minute’s si­lence for the vic­tims.

“I’m afraid to say there are now 79 peo­ple that we be­lieve are ei­ther dead or miss­ing and I sadly have to pre­sume are dead,” po­lice com­man­der Stu­art Cundy told re­porters.

Po­lice had ear­lier put the toll from Wed­nes­day’s in­ferno at 58 pre­sumed dead.

He said only five peo­ple had been for­mally iden­ti­fied so far by po­lice. Of­fi­cers had ear­lier warned that some may never be iden­ti­fied due to the con­di­tion of their re­mains. Cundy said the search and re­cov­ery op­er­a­tion was on­go­ing in the burnt-out 24-storey tower, which was built in 1974 and had re­ceived a ma­jor re­fur­bish­ment that was com­pleted last year.

“This is an in­cred­i­bly dis­tress­ing time for fam­i­lies and they have my com­mit­ment that we will do this as quickly as we pos­si­bly can,” he said.

Cundy promised an “ex­haus­tive” crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the fire that would also look at the re­fur­bish­ment.

“We will go where the ev­i­dence may take us,” and do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble “to en­sure that those re­spon­si­ble will be brought to jus­tice,” he said.

“If I iden­tify... an is­sue that is a risk to pub­lic safety, we will be shar­ing that im­me­di­ately with the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties,” he added.

The fire has prompted warn­ings about fire safety risks in many other coun­cil tower blocks built in the same era.

Toll

Cundy warned that the toll of 79 peo­ple could change.

“I be­lieve there may be peo­ple who were in Gren­fell Tower that peo­ple may not know were miss­ing and may not have re­alised they were in there on the night.

“Equally, there may be peo­ple who thank­fully may have man­aged to es­cape the fire and for what­ever rea­son have not let their fam­ily or friends or po­lice know,” he said.

By the black­ened Gren­fell Tower, fire­fight­ers took off their hel­mets and stood still to ob­serve the minute’s si­lence, some with their arms around each other’s shoul­ders.

Other emer­gency ser­vice work­ers stood with their hands be­hind their backs and their hel­mets on the ground. Dis­tressed women were seen hug­ging af­ter the si­lence.

Lon­don fire chief Dany Cot­ton told BBC ra­dio that it might be “some days yet” be­fore fire­fight­ers could say they have reached ev­ery­one in the build­ing.

She also de­fended the fire ser­vice’s ad­vice for peo­ple to stay in their flats dur­ing tower block fires, say­ing that hav­ing ev­ery­one evac­u­ate from such blocks through a sin­gle stair­case would cause fur­ther in­juries and ham­per ef­forts to put out smaller blazes.

She said fire­fight­ers did not know “why the fire spread in that ab­so­lutely un­usual and ex­tra­or­di­nary way”.

“Un­til we do that, we can­not look at any­thing other than stay­ing with the same ad­vice.”

The Na­tional Health Ser­vice said that 17 pa­tients were still be­ing treated in hospi­tal, of whom nine re­main in crit­i­cal con­di­tion.

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May was to chair another meet­ing of top of­fi­cials in re­sponse to the tragedy.

Lon­don po­lice on Sun­day re­leased images taken within the tower, say­ing con­di­tions in­side verged on the “in­de­scrib­able”.

Pho­tos and videos pub­lished by the Metropoli­tan Po­lice show the gut­ted wreck­age of apart­ments.

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.

Rem­nants

The rem­nants of an ex­er­cise bike, an oven and wash­ing ma­chine point to the lives of res­i­dents in the mo­ments be­fore the blaze.

The images were taken by a re­cov­ery team in­side the 120 flats.

Mean­while, for the last decade, en­gi­neers spe­cial­iz­ing in fire safety have wor­ried about the hid­den dan­ger posed by the kind of in­su­lated metal­lic skin that trans­ported flames up a high-rise apart­ment build­ing in Lon­don, killing dozens.

For the last decade, en­gi­neers spe­cial­iz­ing in fire safety have wor­ried about the hid­den dan­ger posed by the kind of in­su­lated metal­lic skin that trans­ported flames up a high-rise apart­ment build­ing in Lon­don, killing dozens.

Pan­els of the ar­mor-like “cladding” have be­come a pop­u­lar fa­cade on tall build­ings world­wide, both for their sleek look and en­ergy-sav­ing virtues. They also have helped fuel spec­tac­u­lar in­fer­nos in the Mid­dle East, Europe, Asia and the United States.

Some fire ex­perts worry that, with en­ergy ef­fi­ciency a pri­or­ity world­wide, the pro­lif­er­a­tion of “green” build­ings has the un­in­tended con­se­quence of fan­ning fire dan­ger. Though cladding can be flame-re­sis­tant, the re­sult can be deadly when it is not.

“The good in­tent of sus­tain­abil­ity trans­lates into a po­ten­tial fire safety prob­lem,” said Brian Meacham, a fire pro­tec­tion en­gi­neer­ing pro­fes­sor at Worces­ter Polytech­nic In­sti­tute in Mas­sachusetts. His con­cerns be­gan to crys­tal­ize in 2010, he said, when he was in South Korea pre­sent­ing a pa­per on new tech­nol­ogy and fire safety and a cladded high-rise burned.

At Lon­don’s Gren­fell Tower, flames raced with alarm­ing speed up 24 sto­ries of cladding in which a plas­tic core was sand­wiched be­tween thin sheets of alu­minum. That com­pos­ite is one of sev­eral kinds of ex­te­rior pan­el­ing that helps mod­er­ate in­side tem­per­a­tures, sav­ing on en­ergy needed for heat­ing and cool­ing.

The tower’s ag­ing con­crete fa­cade re­ceived the face-lift last year as part of a 10 mil­lion pound ($13 mil­lion) pub­licly funded re­fur­bish­ment ef­fort aimed, in part, at mak­ing the build­ing more en­ergy ef­fi­cient.

The tower, home to as many as 600 peo­ple, burned Wed­nes­day. At least 58 peo­ple were con­firmed or pre­sumed dead, a tally that could rise.

Au­thor­i­ties are still in­ves­ti­gat­ing the fire. Its be­hav­ior strongly implicated the cladding, sev­eral fire safety ex­perts said in in­ter­views. Anger has mounted in the com­mu­nity fol­low­ing re­ports that con­trac­tors had used cheaper pan­els in which the plas­tic in­su­la­tion was not fire-re­sis­tant.

Cundy

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