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London fire: Why were Grenfell Tower residents death-trap fears ignored?

By PA Reporters

A London council has admitted it received complaints over the refurbishment of a tower block which was the scene of a catastrophic fire in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

A residents action group spoke out angrily yesterday after 12 died and 18 were left critically ill following the inferno at Grenfell Tower in north Kensington.

There are fears that the death toll could rise further yet, with people last night still reported as missing.

Police added that it was set to be "some time" before victims could be identified.

The cause of the huge blaze is not yet known but residents had been concerned about safety, and Grenfell Action Group said in a blog post in November "only a catastrophic event" would expose the issues.

Prime Minister Theresa May has promised a "proper investigation" following the Grenfell Tower fire, saying that if any lessons are to be learned they will be and "action will be taken".

Hundreds of firefighters tackled the blaze, rescuing 65 people, but more than 70 have been left in hospital, with 18 in critical care.

Emergency accommodation has been provided to 44 households affected by the Grenfell Tower fire, the local council has said.

Families with young children, elderly residents and those who are vulnerable have been given "immediate priority", according to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) Council.

The authority said it was helping anyone who needs emergency accommodation and has offered "financial assistance to cover their immediate needs".

Housing officers will work through the night to provide support for those affected by the blaze, in which at least 12 people have died, it added.

People unable to return to their homes will be offered emergency accommodation at Westway Sports Centre in Crowthorne Road, north Kensington.

Council leader Nick Paget-Brown said their focus is currently on the rescue operation but pledged to ensure the cause of the fire will be fully investigated.

"This is a terrible day for Kensington and Chelsea and we are doing all we can to support the victims and their families," he said.

"At present all our focus has to be on supporting the rescue and relief operation. But the cause of the fire will need to be fully investigated and we will keep people informed."

Speaking from Downing Street yesterday, Theresa May said: "There are people tonight who have no home to go to, they have lost absolutely everything, so our focus must be on support to them. In due course, when the scene is secure, when it's possible to identify the cause of this fire, then of course there will be a proper investigation and if there are any lessons to be learnt they will be, and action will be taken."

Earlier on Wednesday, Police and Fire Minister Nick Hurd chaired a meeting of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat to co-ordinate the response to the disaster, and the government said it was ready to assist "as necessary".

Mrs May said it was "impossible to comprehend the horror" of what the victims of the fire have gone through.

The tragedy comes little more than a week after Londoners stood defiant in the wake of the London Bridge terror attack, and Mrs May applauded the "incredible bravery" of the emergency services and the reaction of those who helped those caught up in the fire.

She said: "The response of people living nearby who provided help, compassion and support has I think once again shown the fantastic spirit of London.

"Earlier today I ordered a cross-government meeting to ensure that every assistance was being given to manage the emergency service response and that group will meet again tomorrow."

It was agreed at the meeting of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat that further checks would be carried out on similar tower blocks.

But Mrs May refused to comment on whether such checks should have been carried out before, or claims that the government has failed to bring in tougher regulations promised last year.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered her country's "deep sympathy" to the families of victims, adding: "The efforts of rescue services were heroic."

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