Dany Cotton, London’s fire commissioner, said she had “genuinely” no idea about how many people were still missing. She also admitted that it we be an “absolute miracle” if there was still anyone alive in the tower and that it would take “weeks” to complete a proper search with the building still unstable.

On Thursday, Labour Member of Parliament David Lammy called for arrests to be made over the fire, describing the incident as “corporate manslaughter.”

  • Final death toll still unknown, no number put on missing
  • Residents who escaped were offered housing overnight
  • Local council says it has enough donations for the survivors
  • 37 people in hospital, 17 of which are critical
  • British Prime Minister Theresa May visited the site Thursday

Anger

British Prime Minister Theresa May visited the site of the fire on Thursday where she talked to those involved in the rescue effort.

Lammy told the BBC he had yet to hear from family friend Khadjia Saye who lived in the tower, and called the fire “an outrage”.

“We built buildings in the 70s, those 70s buildings, many of them should be demolished, they haven’t got easy fire escapes, they’ve got no sprinklers – it’s totally, totally unacceptable in Britain that this is allowed to happen and people lose their lives in this way and people should be held to account.”

Speaking Thursday, fire chief Cotton said that urban search and rescue dogs would be deployed inside the building.

Cotton said that while the core of the building was structurally sound, dogs were lighter and more agile than people. Her staff will remain on scene for “days to come” and that the search of the tower would be a “slow and painstaking process.”

Cotton also said that parts of the building would have to be shored up in order to make it safe for rescue workers to reach each floor.

‘Didn’t hear fire alarms’

Questions remain over how the Grenfell Tower fire began and how it spread so quickly through the 1970s-era building that was home to as many as 500 people.

Originally constructed in 1974, the residential tower block had recently undergone a massive $13.2M (£10.3M) refurbishment carried out by private developers Rydon and completed in the summer of 2016.

According to the local authority’s website, these large-scale works included the installation of “insulated exterior cladding, new double-glazed windows and a new communal heating system, with the goal of improving energy efficiency.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to Dany Cotton, Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade at the scene.
Notably, redevelopment of the building included provisions for improvements to the “smoke/fire safety and ventilation works.”

Residents had complained about safety going back several years.

Many of those evacuated said the fire had spread incredibly quickly with almost no warning and multiple residents told CNN they did not hear fire alarms when the blaze broke out.

In November a residents group, the Grenfell Action Group (GAC), highlighted ongoing concerns among residents over the safety of the tower, managed by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) on behalf of the borough.

The blog post argued that only “a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord … and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders.”

KCTMO acknowledged residents’ concerns in a statement. “It is too early to speculate what caused the fire and contributed to its spread. We will co-operate fully with all the relevant authorities in order to ascertain the cause of this tragedy.”

“We are aware that concerns have been raised historically by residents. We always take all concerns seriously and these will form part of our forthcoming investigations.”

Safety concerns

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Wayne Brown, London Fire Brigade Deputy Assistant Commissioner, said in 25 years on the job he had “never seen a fire with that intensity spread so quickly throughout a building of this size.”

Fire chiefs said it was too early to speculate on the cause of the blaze. However, residents of the tower had expressed concerns over the safety of the building, specifically pointing to fire risks, according to a website run by the Grenfell Action Group.

Ian Burgess, a professor of structural engineering at the University of Sheffield, told CNN that while fires do spread vertically up buildings, it’s “generally quite a slow process.”

“This was clearly a very rapid transmission of flame up the front of the building,” he said.

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