17 Jun 2017

London fire: Protests, PM jeered, as sorrow turns to anger

10:51 am on 17 June 2017

Protesters demanding answers over a fire that engulfed a west London block of flats have stormed a town hall with a list of demands.

Protesters stormed Kensington Town Hall, demanding justice for those affected by the fire that gutted Grenfell Tower.

Protesters stormed a west London town hall, demanding justice for those affected by the fire that gutted Grenfell Tower. Photo: AFP

Police now say that at least 30 people died in the devastating fire which engulfed the 24-storey tower block block on Wednesday.

They have launched a criminal investigation into the fire and Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a public inquiry.

But fury has grown in the local community at what people say is the slow response from authorities to the fire and a failure to inform people about the fate of relatives.

A man carries a picture of a missing person on his back, during a protest outside Kensington Town Hall, London.

A man carries a picture of a missing person on his back, during the protest. Photo: AFP

Hundreds of protesters stormed the Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall chanting: "We want justice". Between 50 and 60 people broke off from a protest outside to go into the council building.

The protesters barged their way through an automatic door at and sought to gain entry to an upper floor. Police barred their way and scuffles broke out.

The local authority, which owns the tower block where families rent their homes, said it was doing all it could to support the victims and to help the relief operation.

It issued a statement before the protest to try to address the concerns of residents. "We entirely support the calling of the public inquiry and will cooperate in whatever way we can with it so that local people have all the answers about what has happened," the council, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, said

But protesters were angered when no one from the council came out to address their concerns, reporters said.

Organisers said they had refused to give out the number of people who lived in the tower block - which was one of the protesters' demands.

British Prime Minister Theresa May visited victims at a hospital and residents and volunteers at a church near the scene of the fire. Mrs May, who on Thursday met emergency services at the fire site but did not meet locals, was jeered by an angry crowd outside the church who shouted "Coward" and "You're not wanted".

The Queen meets members of the community affected by the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The Queen meets members of the community affected by the Grenfell Tower disaster. Photo: AFP

Earlier, the Queen and Prince William visited a relief centre for the victims. The Queen paid tribute to the "bravery" of firefighters and the "incredible generosity" of volunteers now offering support.

Some desperate residents pleaded to speak to the queen and her grandson about their plight and the fate of missing children as they left the site, with William promising he would return.

Demonstrators outside the Department for Communities and Local Government in central London.

Photo: AFP

Metropolitan police commander Stuart Cundy said 24 people were in hospital with fire-related injuries, 12 of them in critical care.

He said police investigators and experts had located the spot where they believed the fire started, and based on what they knew, there was no suggestion it was deliberate.

  • Six victims of the blaze have been provisionally identified by police
  • A total of 24 people remained in hospital - 12 in a critical condition
  • A criminal investigation has been launched
  • MPs have called for the public inquiry to be "swift" and get answers on safety as quickly as possible
  • London mayor Sadiq Khan has written an open letter to the prime minister, calling for her plan to help the community "as a matter of urgency".
  • Prime Minister Theresa May is chairing a cross-Whitehall meeting on how to help the community recover
  • UK councils are carrying out urgent reviews of their tower blocks, according to the Local Government Association
  • The British Red Cross has launched an appeal to raise money for those affected

- Reuters / BBC