London fire: Protesters storm town hall

Protesters demanding help for those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire have stormed Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall with a list of demands.

 

Between 50 and 60 people broke off from a protest outside to go into the council building.  

One member of the public said people made homeless needed help "right now".

 

After meeting survivors near Grenfell Tower, Theresa May announced a £5m fund to pay for emergency supplies, food, clothes and other costs.

 

There were angry scenes outside the Clement James Centre, in North Kensington, where the meeting had been held.  

Earlier, the Queen and Prince William visited a relief centre for the victims, while the missing could number about 70, the BBC understands.

 

Police say at least 30 people died as a result of the west London blaze and are likely to be among the 70. Three of those who died have been identified. 

 

There was nothing to suggest the fire was started deliberately, police said. 

 

The town hall protest began at around 15:00 BST and scores have since joined it.

At around 16:30 BST, people began to rush up the steps and make their way into the building. 

 

One member of the public said people made homeless by the fire needed help "right now", adding: "Nobody knows what is happening. People are so angry. Those people shouldn't be sleeping in the street". 

 

The organisers of the protest said council leaders would not come out to talk to them, but had released a statement, promising to rehouse as many people locally as they could and to provide funding for those affected. 

 

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

 

Public 'not satisfied' with answers

Mustafa Al Mansur, who organised the protest, said the council's response was "flimsy" with "no concrete answers".

 

"The people were not satisfied with the answers," he told BBC News. "The people were getting frustrated and they walked towards the building. They did not force themselves inside. They got inside the main building and were in the foyer, just speaking."

 

Police then arrived on the scene and formed a barricade, which Mr Al Mansur said led to "physical confrontation" between the two sides.

 

"We would like the chief executive of the council to make public commitments on what the council is going to do for the victims of this borough, and for all the other buildings in the borough that [could] stand the same fate at Grenfell Towers."

 

Royal visit

The Queen and Duke of Cambridge met volunteers, residents and community representatives during their visit to the Westway Sports Centre. 

The Queen paid tribute to the "bravery" of firefighters and the "incredible generosity" of volunteers now offering support.

 

Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said that of those who were killed, one died in hospital.

 

He also said there was nothing to suggest that the fire was started deliberately, and that everyone in hospital has now been identified. 

Police say some of those killed in the fire may never be identified.

 

The fire broke out shortly before 01:00 BST on Wednesday.

It tore through all floors of the building and took more than 200 firefighters 24 hours to bring it under control. 

 

Mahad Egal, who escaped his fourth floor flat with his family, said: "At first it seemed it was controllable, but really quickly the fire started to rise as the cladding caught fire. It is incredible we survived."

 

Emergency services are spending a third day searching for bodies in the burnt-out Grenfell Tower in North Kensington.

 

Fire chiefs say they do not expect to find more survivors. Police have launched a criminal investigation into the fire and PM Theresa May has ordered a public inquiry. 

 

The prime minister faced criticism for not meeting survivors on a visit to the scene on Thursday, unlike Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. 

 

When Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom visited the scene, a man shouted: "Why are Sadiq Khan and Corbyn coming down here to speak to people and Theresa May is coming here with police, walking around, not meeting no-one, not meeting families?

"Enough is enough, I have got friends in that tower. We have a right to be angry."

 

Fragile government facing huge challenge

Downing Street said the purpose of her visit was to get a briefing from emergency services and she later announced a public inquiry.

 

But former cabinet minister Michael Portillo said the prime minister "didn't use her humanity".

 

So far in the investigation: 

■   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

■   Mr Khan has written an open letter to the prime minister, calling for her plan to help the community "as a matter of urgency".

■   Mrs 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

■   The emergency number for people concerned about friends and family is 0800 0961 233

 

The leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council told BBC Two's Newsnight it would not use the type of cladding fitted to Grenfell Tower on other buildings in the borough.

 

The cladding - installed on the tower in a recent renovation - has come under scrutiny, with experts saying a more fire resistant type could have been used. 

 

On Thursday, the first victim of the fire was named as Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali, 23.

The Syria Solidarity Campaign said Mr Alhajali, a civil engineering student, had been in a flat on the 14th floor when the fire broke out, and had spent two hours on the phone to a friend in Syria. 

He had been trying to get through to his family while he was waiting to be rescued. 

 

His older brother, Omar, told the BBC he had lost Mohammed on the way out of the building.

 

Two other victims have also been named. 

Five-year-old Isaac Shawo reportedly got separated from his family in the smoke and later died. 

 

Artist and photographer Khadija Saye, 24, lived on the 20th floor and also died.

 

At the scene

By Peter Hunt, BBC royal correspondent

This is the British monarchy, in action, showing it has learnt from its mistakes of the past. 

 

Mistakes that have included the significant time that elapsed before the Queen visited the site of the Aberfan disaster in the 1960s and the "Show us you care" newspaper headlines that were printed 20 years ago, in the days following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. 

 

As Theresa May is learning to her cost, it is a tragedy with a growing political dimension. 

 

There is a howl of pain and anger being directed at an establishment which has the royals at its heart.  

 

There's the talk of the divide between rich and poor. The Queen's grandson is a millionaire prince living in a palace in the same borough as Grenfell Tower.  

 

In coming to the site, the Queen was acting as "head of the nation" - a focal point at a moment of considerable pain.  She was also providing her prime minister with a masterclass in how to respond on such occasions.  

 

Stories of how people managed to escape have also emerged.

Christos Fairbairn, 41, a resident who lived on the 15th floor, described how he collapsed while fleeing the building, only to be rescued by a firefighter.

 

"I can't believe I am alive," he said. "I will never forget what happened and how traumatising it was. I know I will never live in a tower block again."

 

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Elpidio Bonifacio, a partially blind man in his 70s, was rescued from his 11th-floor flat after having been seen at the window waving a jumper.

 

His son Gordon, 41, said on Facebook that his father was now in intensive care.

 

Rydon, the company that carried out the £8.6m refurbishment of the tower, welcomed the public inquiry, but said it had met all building and fire regulations, plus health and safety standards. 

 

Housing minister Alok Sharma said the government was working with the local authority to ensure that "every single family will be rehoused in the local area" - but Kensington and Chelsea Council said it may "have to explore housing options... in other parts of the capital."

 

BBC 

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