London Blaze Called 'Corporate Manslaughter'

Death toll could be in the hundreds, lawmaker warns
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2017 5:00 AM CDT
Updated Jun 15, 2017 6:48 AM CDT
London Blaze Called 'Corporate Manslaughter'
A British Red Cross volunteer sorts articles of food, clothing, toys and household items for those made homeless by the massive fire in Grenfell Tower.   (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Anger in Britain is rising in the aftermath of the Grenfell Towers high-rise blaze. With 12 people confirmed dead, almost 80 hospitalized, and many more still unaccounted for after the devastating fire in the 24-floor apartment block, calls for justice have been left alongside messages for loved ones at a wall of condolence near the west London site, the BBC reports. Residents say safety concerns had been ignored at the building, which had no sprinkler system and was refurbished last year with cladding that ignited in the blaze. Labour MP David Lammy denounced the fire as "corporate manslaughter" Thursday. He said arrests should be made and warned that the death toll could be in the hundreds, the Independent reports. The latest:

  • British government ministers were warned about the fire risk of cladding as far back as 1999, the Telegraph reports. Officials have now called for an urgent review of the use of the material, which is on tens of thousands of buildings in the country. Experts say it acted like a "chimney" in the blaze, causing flames to race up the building.
  • CTV reports that the managers of the building, which had around 500 residents, say it is too early to determine the cause. The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization says concerns raised by residents will be looked at during its investigation.

  • Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton says a thorough search of the building has been delayed due to safety concerns. "On the upper floors there are still some very small pockets of fire remaining," she told the BBC Thursday. "Due to the nature of the building at the moment we are not sending firefighters in there, because it is not structurally safe for them to go right out to the edges of the building now." She said a painstaking fingertip search will be carried out soon as possible.
  • Cotton says up to nine firefighters were injured in the blaze, though she is more concerned about the long-term mental health of the firefighters and everybody else involved in the traumatic incident, the Guardian reports.
  • In one of many tales of heroism to emerge from the disaster, 66-year-old grandmother Clarita Ghavim tells the Evening Standard that her life was saved by two strangers. She says that after leaving her 10th-floor apartment and finding herself in a hallway thick with smoke, two men put her on their shoulders and carried her to safety.
  • Joe Ruane, the former deputy chief fire officer for US Air Force bases in Britain, tells the AP that he has never seen a blaze like this before and it appears that more than one fire protection safeguard failed. Residents also blame a "stay put" policy that advised them to stay in their apartments in the event of fire.
  • LBC reports that collection points have been overwhelmed with donations from Londoners seeking to help survivors. On Wednesday evening, hundreds of volunteers formed a human chain to help sort donations including food, clothes, toys, and toiletries.
  • In an op-ed at the New York Times, Heather Brooke says failure to act on residents' warnings shows why Londoners have lost trust in the social housing system. She notes that after the Grenfell Action Group raised serious concerns, the local government had a lawyer send a letter alleging defamation and demanding the posts be removed.
(More London stories.)

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