Britain left 'sombre' by tower inferno - Queen Elizabeth II

2017-06-17 19:22
A sombre Queen Elizabeth II has attended her annual birthday parade called the "Trooping of the Colour" in London. (Chris J Ratcliffe, AFP)

A sombre Queen Elizabeth II has attended her annual birthday parade called the "Trooping of the Colour" in London. (Chris J Ratcliffe, AFP)

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London - Queen Elizabeth II said on Saturday that Britain was left sombre by the London tower block inferno.

She stood for a minute's silence at the start of her birthday parade on Saturday.

"It is difficult to escape a very sombre national mood," she said in a message marking the event.

"I have been profoundly struck by the immediate inclination of people throughout the country to offer comfort and support to those in desperate need.

"United in our sadness, we are equally determined, without fear or favour, to support all those rebuilding lives so horribly affected by injury and loss."

Housing block

Prime Minister Theresa May, accused of misreading the mood, met survivors at Downing Street on Saturday.

As public anger swelled at the unknown death toll - there are 30 confirmed fatalities so far, with dozens more unaccounted for - Downing Street said May was meeting a 15-strong group of victims, residents and volunteer workers at her office.

Furious residents heckled May and stormed the local authority headquarters on Friday, demanding justice for the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster, claiming the fatal blaze was due to negligence.

"It was a death trap and they knew it," one person shouted as demonstrators stormed inside the offices of the Kensington and Chelsea council, which was responsible for managing the 1970s social housing block in a working-class enclave of one of Britain's richest areas.

Some 19 patients are still being treated in hospital, of whom 10 are in a critical condition, the National Health Service said Saturday. The emergency services expect to find no more survivors from Wednesday's tragedy.

More than 70 people reportedly remain unaccounted for and the area surrounding the tower has been plastered by distraught relatives with pictures of the missing, from grandparents to young children.

Inundated with donations

May chaired a government task force on the disaster at 10 Downing Street on Saturday before meeting a delegation of residents, victims, volunteers and community leaders at her office.

May was criticised for avoiding locals when she visited the burnt-out shell of the 24-storey tower on Thursday and faced cries of "Shame on you" and "coward" when she returned the following day.

Dozens of police officers held back booing crowds and broke up scuffles as her car drove off from a local church, where she had met survivors, residents and volunteers.

Queen Elizabeth and her grandson Prince William visited a community centre on Friday where some of the survivors are being housed and where volunteers have been inundated with donations of clothes and food.

The sense of anger was palpable on the streets and not just at the town hall.

Protesters marched to the edge of the police cordon around the tower, shouting "no justice, no peace", where a few young men tried unsuccessfully to break through.

Legal representation

Saturday's newspapers conveyed the sense of anger.

"It was murder" said the front page of The Sun; "May takes cover" said The Times; "Inferno: the anger erupts", said the Daily Mail.

The Daily Telegraph claimed left-wing militants had been hijacking the demonstrations and spreading political fake news conspiracy theories about the blaze.

May has announced a judge-led inquiry into what happened, and on Friday promised £5m for emergency supplies, food and clothing.

First Secretary of State Damian Green, May's deputy, said the prime minister was "distraught" and shared "the same degree of sympathy and horror" as everyone else.

He told BBC radio that the inquiry would have interim reports and "we want the response to be as fast as possible".

Green said the government would pay for residents' legal representation at the inquiry and reiterated May's promise to rehouse those displaced by the fire within three weeks as close as possible to home.

Read more on:    queen elizabeth  |  theresa may  |  uk

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