London fire survivors heckle authorities at tense meeting

People gather outside Kensington Town Hall during protests following the Grenfell Tower fire in London. (Tim Ireland, AP)
People gather outside Kensington Town Hall during protests following the Grenfell Tower fire in London. (Tim Ireland, AP)

London - Survivors of last month's deadly tower block inferno in London packed a tense meeting on Wednesday and heckled the new leader of the local authority that has been attacked for its handling of the disaster.

Under tight security prompted by previous confrontations with the angry residents, at least 70 people who lost their homes in the devastating blaze crowded into the Kensington and Chelsea town hall.

The councillors' election at the meeting of Elizabeth Campbell as their new chief was met by boos and shouts of "shame on you", with the heckling a sign of survivors' continued anger at the authorities' handling of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

"I am deeply sorry for the grief and trauma that you are suffering. I am truly sorry that we did not do more to help you when you needed it the most," said Campbell, who at times could not be heard over shouts for her to resign.

Campbell took over after her predecessor Nicholas Paget-Brown who resigned following criticism at his response to the inferno, which spread ferociously through the 24-storey west London block and killed at least 80 people.

Black-clad private security staff doing bag searches and wielding hand-held metal detectors were brought in as the council upped security after dozens of people stormed the town hall last month following the June 14 fire.

Piers Thompson, behind a petition calling for local residents to have a greater say in decision-making, told the council "maybe things would have been different" if they had spent as much time on tower safety as they had controlling the meeting.

While at least 150 locals watched proceedings live-streamed to another town hall room, outside dozens of people clutching "Justice for Grenfell" placards echoed the boos from within the chamber as they watched another screen.

'Treated like cattle'

As survivors were ushered to an upstairs gallery overlooking the grand chamber, one man complained of "bullying" from the council while a woman said they were being "treated like cattle".

Photos on display around the room showed flowers and handwritten notes left following the fire.

Speaking following a minute's silence, local vicar Mark O'Donohue said there was "a real feeling of deep shame and even anger that something like this can happen in London and something like this can happen in Kensington," which is the richest district in Britain.

One survivor held up burned debris from the fire as he addressed the council, while another spoke of his decision to run through the smoke-filled stairwell to escape the fire.

"I am very lucky because that night my mum, she was not there so she survived.

"Otherwise it's just going to be ashes or a missing person. Thank God she's with me," said the man, who gave his name as Hamid.

London police have admitted that due to the high intensity of the fire, it may not be possible to formally identify all of the victims.

The recovery operation is expected to take months and investigators will use 6mm sieves as they search for fragments such as bone and teeth.

On Wednesday police said 39 victims have been identified so far, including a five-year-old boy and a baby who was stillborn in hospital on the day of the fire.

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