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Grenfell Tower: Queen and Prince visit community as sorrow turns to anger over fire

By PA Reporters

Grief over the Grenfell Tower disaster turned into angry protests yesterday as the official death toll rose to at least 30, with dozens more also feared to have perished.

Prime Minister Theresa May faced cries of "coward" and "shame on you" as she returned to the site of the devastating fire in west London after being criticised for not meeting victims during her visit on Thursday.

Demonstrators stormed the offices of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council over its handling of the crisis amid concerns that earlier renovation work was linked to the dramatic spread of the blaze.

Hundreds of protesters also marched on Whitehall in central London, to voice their frustration at the Government's response to the fire which ripped through the tower block in north Kensington early on Wednesday morning.

The crowd later began marching towards Kensington High Street, chanting "no justice, no peace".

"We are here today because you must look at that building with tears streaming down your face," one woman said as they neared the foot of the tower.

"We need answers and we need answers now," a man said through a megaphone. "This should not be happening in the United Kingdom, this should never happen."

Downing Street announced a £5m fund for emergency supplies, food and clothing for victims amid fears the death toll will rise, with more than 70 people in total still believed to be unaccounted for.

There was a large police presence yesterday afternoon as Mrs May met a group of victims, residents, volunteers and community leaders at St Clement's Church close to the scene of the horrific blaze.

She declined to speak to anyone outside the meeting where an angry crowd had gathered, and police broke up a scuffle among the group as Mrs May's car drove off. The PM had earlier visited Chelsea and Westminster Hospital to meet staff and patients who were caught up in the fire and the emergency response.

After her visit, she said: "Everyone affected by this tragedy needs reassurance that the Government is there for them at this terrible time - and that is what I am determined to provide."

The Queen and Duke of Cambridge went to temporary relief centres where they met volunteers, and residents who had lost everything.

They spoke with volunteers who have coordinated the relief efforts at Westway Sports Centre, in front of tables stacked with donated goods.

William commented to one volunteer, who spoke about the fire: "Things like that you never want to see." The Duke told another volunteer: "That's one of the most terrible things I have ever seen."

A strong campaigner on mental health, William said it was important those affected talked about the trauma they had witnessed.

Loubna Aghzafi (42), a local resident, told the prince that many people she had spoken to were not yet able to share their experiences.

He replied: "They may want to eventually. They must talk about it."

The Queen heard how the community had rallied round in the wake of the fire, and praised them, adding that their response had "come over very strongly".

Harrowing cries could be heard inside the main hall of the rest centre, where evacuated families and locals have been gathering, as a group of residents consoled one another.

The Queen and William signed a book of condolence in front of a wall bearing posters of those still missing.

Outside, crowds applauded members of the London Fire Brigade, Metropolitan Police and London Ambulance Service as they lined up to be thanked for their bravery by the royal visitors.

As the Queen and Prince William left, a man holding a poster of two siblings who have been missing since the fire called outto the Duke. William responded that he had to leave but shouted: "I'll come back, I'll come back."

Meanwhile, confirming the latest death toll, Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said the tower remained "in a very hazardous state" but there was "nothing to suggest at this time that the fire was started deliberately".

Mr Cundy vowed police "will get to the answer of what has happened and why", adding: "If criminal offences have been committed it is us who will investigate that."

Twenty four people are being treated in hospital, including 12 who are in critical care, he added.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph