'Twenty suicide attempts' since Grenfell Tower fire

Volunteers say council is not doing enough to help traumatised survivors

Grenfell Tower tributes
(Image credit: Carl Court/Getty Images)

16 June

Anger is mounting among survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire in London as fears grow that 100 people could have been killed in the blaze.

More than 70 people still remain unaccounted for, the Daily Telegraph says, and police say it is possible some of the victims may never be identified. Emergency services are continuing to search for bodies in the burnt-out remains of the building.

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Theresa May visited the scene yesterday, but was accused of failing to show "humanity" after failing to meet any of those affected.

Labour MP David Lammy, who knew people who lived in the tower block, said the fire amounted to "corporate manslaughter" and called for arrests to be made.

Writing in The Guardian, he said: "Don't let them tell you it's a tragedy. It's not a tragedy, it's a monstrous crime. Corporate manslaughter.

"They were warned by the residents that there was an obvious risk of catastrophe. They looked the other way."

Residents of the block say they repeatedly raised concerns about fire safety at Kensington and Chelsea council and the company that manages the authority's social housing, but claim their fears "fell on deaf ears".

What is corporate manslaughter?

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 created a means of accountability for deaths caused by very serious management failings. Prior to the act, a senior individual who could be said to embody a company had to be found guilty first.

Who might be punished for the Grenfell Tower fire?

Corporate liability does not apply to directors or other individuals who have a senior role in the company or organisation, but "existing health and safety offences and gross negligence manslaughter continue to apply to individuals", says the Daily Telegraph.

"Prosecutions against individuals will continue to be taken where there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to do so."

What happens next?

As yet, it is not clear what caused the fire to spread so quickly. The Prime Minister has ordered a full public inquiry into the disaster. A judge-led investigation was needed to ensure "this terrible tragedy is properly investigated", she said.

Grenfell Tower fire death toll rises to 17 - with many more expected

15 June

Officials say 17 people were killed by the fire in London's Grenfell Tower yesterday, but the number is expected to increase.

Firefighters stopped looking for bodies today as fears grew the building could collapse, The Guardian reports. It could take weeks before all the victims are recovered.

There are still hundreds of residents unaccounted for, the Daily Telegraph reports, while the Guardian adds that of the 78 people hospitalised, 37 are still being treated, with 17 of them in critical care.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who has ordered a full public inquiry into the tragedy, visited the tower block earlier today but reportedly did not speak to any residents.

A Downing Street spokesperson refused to comment on the matter, The Independent says.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also visited the scene.

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The Queen also issued a statement saying her "thoughts and prayers" were with the families affected and paid tribute to the fire services.

It is claimed that residents at Grenfell Tower, who included some of Kensington's poorest families, repeatedly raised concerns about fire safety in the building, which lacked sprinklers. However, they were reportedly ignored and allegedly even threatened with legal action.

A blog post from the Grenfell Action Group claimed "only a catastrophic event" would ensure they were heard.

Labour MP David Lammy, who knew people living in the block, called the catastrophe "corporate manslaughter".

He said: "This is the richest borough in our country treating its citizens in this way and we should call it what it is. It is corporate manslaughter. And there should be arrests made; frankly, it is an outrage."

He added that he still did not know whether his family's friends, Khadija Saye and her mother Mary Mendy, who lived on the 20th floor, had survived.

London fire: What caused the Grenfell Tower blaze and could it have been avoided?

14 June

Residents of Grenfell Tower repeatedly warned of the possibility of a "future major disaster" striking the west London tower block, which went up in flames this morning, killing at least six people.

Grenfell Action Group said they raised safety concerns when the building was refurbished last year's at a cost of £8.7m, but claimed it fell on "deaf ears".

The Times reports residents expressed their views to both the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council, which owns the property, and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), which manages social housing in the borough, for more than four years.

In a blog post, the Grenfell Action Group said "only a catastrophic event" would result in their fears being heard.

Rydon Construction, the company responsible for the regeneration, has also faced criticism for removing a page from their website detailing the work.

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"The webpage, which dates back to completed work in 2016, was removed in the early hours of this morning," says Shortlist.

What happened at Grenfell Tower?

Reports of a fire began early this morning. The blaze was "believed to have started on the fourth floor and spread incredibly quickly", says the BBC.

Forty fire engines and around 200 firefighters tackled the fire.

Six people have been confirmed dead, with the number of fatalities expected to rise. NHS England said 74 people are being treated in hospital, with 20 of them in critical care.

The cause of the fire is not known, although one witness said they believed it was started by a faulty fridge.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said "a full investigation will need to be undertaken at the first possible opportunity".

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What do we know about Grenfell Tower?

The 24-storey building was built by Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council in 1974 and refurbished last year. "The exterior of the 1970s-built tower was modernised with cladding and replacement windows, while additional homes were added using vacant space in the building," says The Times.

On its website, Rydon Construction said: "Externally, rain screen cladding, curtain wall facade and replacement windows were fitted, improving thermal insulation and modernising the exterior of the building."

It is the cladding which has caused the most controversy, with several residents suggesting it contributed to the fire's spread.

One, identified as Methrob, told LBC: "The real issue was when it caught fire to the cladding outside.

"The whole one side of the building was on fire. The cladding went up like a matchstick."

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An architect who knew the design of the building told The Guardian that 1970s blocks such as Grenfell feature "one escape stair which is not designed for a mass evacuation, but is designed for a small number of people to get out whose individual flats are on fire"

Could it have been avoided?

"The tower block was given a medium fire risk rating - defined as a normal fire risk - in 2016 following completion of the refurbishment by the London Fire Brigade and Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council," reports the BBC.

But Geoff Wilkinson, a fire and building inspector, told the broadcaster Grenfell Tower "didn't perform in the way you'd expect a building to perform" once it caught fire.

"You'd expect [the fire] to be contained to an individual apartment," he said. "Something has gone dramatically wrong here."

Residents also believe the fire could have been prevented if their concerns had been listened to.

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In addition, Grenfell Action Group alleges residents were given scant information about what to do in the event of a fire.

According to the group, "a temporary notice stuck in the lift and one announcement in a recent regeneration newsletter" advised residents to remain in their flats in the event of fire.

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An anonymous official told the Guardian the "stay put" strategy was intended to stop people getting hurt if a small number of flats were on fire.

They added: “The stay put strategy clearly wouldn’t work when the fire is roaring up outside the building. That is a strategy that would lead to certain death in the circumstances of this fire."

Questions have also been raised about the lack of sprinklers in the building. Ronnie King, secretary of the all-party parliamentary fire safety and rescue group, told LBC that the government had not properly reviewed a number of recommendations his group made following a similar blaze at a tower block in Camberwell in 2009.

He said: "The all-party group were looking at the issue of fire suppression in all the tower blocks with similar designs to this and we understand that there are around 4,000 tower blocks that don't have fire sprinklers fitted into them."

King added that they had strongly recommended a review of building regulations, but said former housing minister Gavin Barwell had told him he was "considering the proposals - despite the report being four years old".

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London fire: Several dead as huge blaze destroys Grenfell Tower flats

14 June, 10:21 a.m.

Several people are said to have died in a massive fire that engulfed a 24-storey block of flats in west London this morning, while reports suggest some residents remain trapped in the building.

Forty fire engines and more than 200 firefighters battled the blaze at the Grenfell Tower in north Kensington, which is believed to have broken out at around 1am before spreading rapidly.

A statement from the Metropolitan Police confirmed a number of people were killed in the fire. It also said the cause of the blaze was expected to take some time to confirm.

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It is unclear how many people could be trapped, but "a significant number" are unaccounted for, the BBC reports. Police have established a wide cordon amid fears the building might collapse.

Police confirmed that a number of people were being "treated for a range of injuries", while the London Ambulance service said 50 people were taken to hospital.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared the fire a "major incident".

Asked on Radio 4's Today programme about reports that the advice to residents was to stay inside their flats in the event of a fire, Khan said: "Thankfully residents didn't stay in their flats and fled to safety.

"One of the concerns that we have is it's a 24-storey building but for obvious reasons, with the scale of the fire, our experts weren't able to reach all the way to the top. So of course, these are questions that need to be answered as soon as possible."

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Witness Tim Downie told The Guardian the "sheer scale and the speed" with which the blaze spread suggested "there must be casualties and fatalities". Others told the BBC that people inside the building at the time of the fire could be heard calling out for help, saying the smoke was too thick for them to leave their flats.

Grenfell Tower resident Sajad Jamalvatan told the paper: "There were no fire alarms at all."

Jody Martin, who heard the fire engines coming down his street, said: "I saw a woman holding her baby out the window on the west side of the building."

People inside the building were seen flashing torches or mobile phones to attract help and a witness described seeing at least one person falling from an upper floor. "Some residents were seen using bedsheets to make their escape from the tower block," the Daily Telegraph reports.

A woman called Zara said she saw a woman throw her son, who was about five years old, from a fifth or sixth-floor window to escape the blaze.

She told LBC: "One woman actually threw her son out of the window. I think he's OK. I think he might have just had some broken bones and bruises."

London Fire Brigade assistant commissioner Dan Daly described the fire as a "large and very serious incident". He also confirmed that several residents had been successfully rescued from the building.

Grenfell Tower, which contains 120 flats, is managed by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.

Plans and drawings lodged with the local planning department show details of a recent refurbishment project on the site. "One cross section purports to show a single stair access to the upper floors," says the Guardian.

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"A blog late last year by occupants of the tower warned only a catastrophic fire in the tower would 'bring an end to the dangerous living conditions' of tenants and leaseholders," Australian newspaper The Chronicle reports.

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