Politicians call for answers after Grenfell Tower blaze, as death toll rises to 17 with more expected

 
Lucy White
At Least Twelve Dead After Fire Rages Through London Tower Block
Residents and neighbours of Grenfell Tower said prayers for the 12 announced victims of the fire (Source: Getty)

Politicians have today called for answers after the shocking fire in Grenfell Tower yesterday, as the death toll has risen to 17 with more fatalities expected.

Read more: Latest on the Grenfell fire

The Green Party's Sian Berry, chair of the London Assembly housing committee, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that residents should be “much more involved in the management of their blocks”.

Labour's shadow housing minister John Healey has meanwhile called for a special session in the House of Commons to demand answers from a senior minister.

“Overnight we have asked the government: get a minister into parliament today and let parliament recognise how serious this tragedy is,” he told ITV's Good Morning Britain.

“Importantly it helps provide some of the answers that people are asking about what went off, what’s being done and most importantly what’s not being done to learn the lessons and act after the last tragedies that we saw now nearly eight years ago.”

Theresa May yesterday called an emergency cross-party meeting to co-ordinate a response to the incident.

Read more: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan says he will find answers for horrific Grenfell Tower fire

Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy said on the Today programme that the incident was "corporate manslaughter".

He added: "Many of use across the country have been caught up in an election knocking on housing estate doors, travelling up to the top floors of tower blocks, and we know as politicians that the conditions in this country are unacceptable."

In a chillingly prescient blog post, an action group representing residents of Grenfell Tower wrote last November that they feared a deadly event such as a massive fire would be the only way to expose their landlord's “incompetence”.

That landlord, the private company Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), said in a statement that it was “aware that concerns have been raised historically by residents” but that “we always take all concerns seriously and these will form part of our forthcoming investigations”.

Read more: Grenfell Tower management company spent £10m on refurbishments

KCTMO is responsible for the management of nearly 10,000 properties on behalf of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Eight of its 15 board members are residents.

More than 200 firefighters attended the blaze in north Kensington, which began in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The London Fire Brigade said this morning that it had worked with gas authorities to isolate a ruptured gas main, but that the cause of the blaze was still unknown. Firefighters will remain at the scene today.

“Our priority is clearly those we know would have been resident within Grenfell Tower, but there might have been others that were staying with family or friends. So if you do have any concerns, please contact the Casualty Bureau,” said Met commander Stuart Cundy.

The police set up a Casualty Bureau hotline yesterday as the tragic incident unfolded.

A number of charity efforts have been set up to help the survivors of the fire and the victims' families.

Community centres and churches in the vicinity have been inundated with gifts, while the Salvation Army has set up an emergency response.

A member of Kensington Aldridge Academy has also set up a JustGiving crowdfunder for the families, aiming to raise £1m. It is currently almost half way to that target.

However, government body The Charity Commission is advising donors to check a charity is registered before digging deep.

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