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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Saturday, November 25, 2017

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The Queen visits Grenfell Tower fire victims as political row over ignored warnings grips U.K.

Queen and Duke of Cambridge met volunteers

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LONDON, U.K. - On Friday, the Queen and Prince William visited the Westway Sports Centre, a relief centre for Grenfell Tower fire victims even as a political row over warnings that have been ignored for so many years, continued to escalate.> BNN
 
The Queen and Duke of Cambridge met volunteers, residents and community representatives after the Queen paid tribute to the "bravery" of firefighters and the "incredible generosity" of volunteers now offering support.
 
The police meanwhile confirmed that at least 30 people have died as a result of the blaze that broke out on Tuesday, adding that some of those killed may never be identified.
 
Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said that of those who were killed, one died in hospital.
 
Cundy also added that there was nothing to suggest that the fire was started deliberately.
 
While the police also said that everyone that has been hospitalised has now been identified, reports noted that the number of people missing could be as many as 76.
 
At the same time, emergency services continued to search for bodies in the charred Grenfell Tower in North Kensington for the third day in a row - even though fire chiefs said they do not expect to find more survivors. 
 
Earlier, Cundy has said that there was "a risk that sadly we may not be able to identify everybody.”
 
He said he hoped the death toll would not reach "triple figures, and added, “We as the police, we investigate criminal offences - I am not sitting here and saying there are criminal offences that have been committed, that's why you do an investigation, to establish it."
 
After Prime Minister Theresa May visited the spot on Thursday and ordered a public inquiry - police said on Friday that they have launched a criminal investigation into the fire.
 
A political row that started after reports revealed that the community had been raising issues related to the building, continued to escalate.
May came under harsh criticism for not meeting survivors of the tragedy during her visit to the scene. 
 
At the same time, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan did the contrary, speaking to families and residents.
Downing Street argued that the purpose of her visit was to get a briefing from emergency services and to ensure that they had the resources they needed.
Former cabinet minister Michael Portillo said the prime minister "didn't use her humanity.”
 
However, on Friday morning, May visited those injured in the fire and is set to chair a cross-Whitehall meeting on how the authorities can help the community recover.
 
It was also revealed that Khan wrote an open letter to May, saying the community was "understandably distraught, frustrated and increasingly angry.”
He called on May to set out how she plans to help the community "as a matter of urgency.”
 
Meanwhile, Housing minister Alok Sharma reportedly said the government was working with the local authority to ensure that "every single family will be rehoused in the local area.”
 
Later in the day, a statement from Kensington and Chelsea Council, the authority that owns the tower block, stated that while they were trying to rehouse people in the borough, it is "possible the council will have to explore housing options that may become available in other parts of the capital."
 
Further, Conservative MP Chris Philp said the public inquiry should produce interim findings to ensure swift action can be taken if residents in other tower blocks are at risk.
 
Social media reports suggested that residents are planning to march from Grenfell Tower to Kensington and Chelsea town hall on Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, schools in Kensington and Chelsea reopened on Friday.
 
Britain's Press Association reported that about 70 people were missing after compiling a list of verified reports. 
 
London declared a major incident after the residential apartment building was engulfed in a fiery blaze that left the building charred.
 
About 200 firefighters from across London and 45 fire trucks were deployed to bring the blaze under control at the 27-story Grenfell Tower in North Kensington.
 
The blaze is said to have started around 1 a.m. London time, and six hours later, smoke still engulfed the building as rescue operations were set in motion to deal with the blaze. 
 
It was later revealed that on a website run by the "Grenfell Action Group" - residents of the tower had previously expressed concerns over the safety of the building, specifically pointing to fire risks. 
 
On Wednesday morning, even though the fire was brought under control, the building was still smoldering and fears were high that the building, with more than 100 apartments, might collapse.
 
Subsequently, a hazardous area response team were also dispatched to the area. 
 
The blaze, reports noted was one of the worst since a 2009 fire in south London that killed six people, including three children. 
 
According to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s website, the Grenfell Tower block was built in 1974 and contained 120 homes.
The tower, managed by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization on behalf of the council was recently subject to a $10.9 million redevelopment.
 
A report in the BBC stated that the cladding on the outside of the building had a plastic core as opposed to a mineral core, which some experts say is less flammable.
 
Harley Facades, which completed the refurbishment work, said in a statement, “At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.”
 
Residents of the Grenfell Tower public housing development have repeatedly raised a number of fire safety concerns, which they said included the building’s inadequate escape routes and the absence of an integrated alarm system.

 

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