The death toll in the London tower block fire rose to 17 on Thursday amid growing questions about whether a recent renovation played a role in how quickly the fire spread through the building.
“We do believe that that number will sadly increase,” London Police Cmdr. Stuart Cundy said at a news conference. He said that 37 people were under medical treatment, of which 17 were in critical care.
Firefighters, meanwhile, combed through the wreckage of the 24-story west London tower, but they emphasized that they don’t expect to find any more survivors.
“Tragically, now, we are not expecting to find anyone else alive,” said London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton. Speaking near the scene of the fire, she told Sky News that the “the severity and the heat of the fire will mean it will be an absolute miracle for anyone to be left alive.”
The number of people still missing is “unknown,” she said. The search of the charred building could take weeks, and will be assisted by sniffer dogs.
A number of worried family members have posted pictures of missing relatives on social media, pleading for information.
The British Prime Minister Theresa May visited the scene of the tragedy and spoke to firefighters who had been working around the clock. She later ordered a full public inquiry to ensure “this terrible tragedy is properly investigated.”
“We need to have an explanation for this,” she said. “We owe that to the families.”
Queen Elizabeth II paid tribute to those who lost their lives in the blaze and acknowledged the “bravery” of the firefighters.
Wednesday’s fire was unlike any seen here in recent memory, a blaze that transformed a high-rise that was once home to about 500 people into a charred ruin on the skyline.
The cause of the fire remains unknown. But as the investigation continues, there are growing questions that a recent refurbishment could have contributed to the fire spreading so quickly.
According to the BBC, 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.”
The fire marked a fresh trauma in a city already roiled by terrorist attacks, an unhappy and divisive political campaign, and the lingering uncertainty over Britain’s departure from the E.U., all of which seemed to endow the tragedy with an extra measure of dismay.
SOURCE: Griff Witte and Karla Adam
The Washington Post