Grenfell tragedy: Police release images of destruction within tower
Number missing expected to rise above 58 as residents begin to receive £5,500 payments
The investigations at Grenfell Tower have led to the belief the number of people missing, but as yet unaccounted for has risen from 58, the Metropolitan police has confirmed.
Releasing the first images from inside the burnt-out building, Cdr Stuart Cundy said some of the victims may never be identified.
“The conditions due to the fire damage verge on indescribable, which is why this will be such a lengthy operation taking weeks to complete,” he said. “We must also prepare people for the terrible reality that some people may not be identified due to the intensity of the fire.
“Sadly that work leads me to believe that the number of people missing, but as yet unaccounted for has risen from 58.”
The news came as Theresa May announced that all families left homeless by the Grenfell Tower fire would receive at least £5,500 [€6,270] to help them rebuild their lives.
After admitting at the weekend that the initial response to the disaster was “not good enough”, and after being accused of failing to engage properly with victims on her first visit to the site of the disaster, the prime minister said the government would do “absolutely everything possible to help all of those affected through the difficult days, weeks, months and years ahead.”
Responsibility for the relief effort has been taken away from Kensington and Chelsea council and handed to Gold Command, the emergency services network in place to manage disasters. It is embarrassing for the council, the wealthiest in the country, to have had to cede control.
Cash payments of £500 were available for families from Sunday night, and from Monday payments of £5,000 will be put into bank accounts. The money, which will come from the £5 million emergency fund previously announced by Downing Street, and which will go to families whose homes were destroyed in the fire, may be increased if necessary, for example to pay for funeral costs.
May said: “As we continue to respond to the needs of the community, our focus is on ensuring that all of those affected by this unimaginable tragedy get the right support as quickly as possible.”
On Monday at 11am a minute’s silence will be observed across the UK in remembrance of those killed in the fire. The police have said at least 58 people are either dead or missing, presumed dead, and there are fears the final death toll may turn out to be significantly higher.
The government’s response to the fire has been described as inadequate, and the Conservative-led local council has faced particularly intense criticism over the chaos and paralysis that characterised its response to the disaster.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats called for Nick Paget-Brown, the council leader, to stand down on Sunday as the government, in a tacit admission that the council had failed to cope, said it was drafting in civil servants to help.
Opposition councillors are angry at the way council leaders appeared to freeze when confronted by a disaster on the scale of the fire. They said they were kept in the dark and repeatedly given incorrect assurances that accommodation had been found for residents.
The council had failed to return calls from neighbouring councils offering to provide accommodation and other help, the councillors said.
Other criticisms included a failure to communicate with survivors and their families; a lack of visible staff on the ground providing advice; a failure to distribute any of the money being donated; and a failure to ensure surviving residents were allocated suitable accommodation nearby.
The Labour leader on the council, Robert Atkinson, said the leadership had lost all credibility. “They have lost control,” he said. “They seem mesmerised by the gravity of the situation.”
– (Guardian service)