London fire: Prime minister orders full public inquiry – BBC News

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Inside Grenfell Tower

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One of the first images from inside the tower shows a small fire still burning inside one flat

Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a full public inquiry into the fire that engulfed a west London block of flats, killing at least 17 people.

That figure is expected to rise, as fire chiefs do not expect to find any more survivors in the burnt-out Grenfell Tower in north Kensington.

The PM said people “deserve answers” as to why the fire spread so rapidly.

The first victim has been named by the Syria Solidarity Campaign as Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali, 23.

In a statement, the organisation said the civil engineering student was in a flat on the 14th floor, on the phone for two hours with a friend in Syria.

He was trying to get through to his family while he was waiting to be rescued.

The group said: “Mohammed bid his friend goodbye, saying that the fire had reached him. He asked his friend to pass on the message to his family…

“Mohammed undertook a dangerous journey to flee war and death in Syria, only to meet it here in the UK, in his own home.

“Mohammed came to this country for safety and the UK failed to protect him.”

His older brother, Omar, lost him on the way out and survived, the organisation said.

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Syria Solidarity Campaign

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Mohammed Alhajali was a civil engineering student at the University of West London

Earlier, Mrs May made a brief, private visit to the scene, where she spoke to Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton and members of the emergency services.

She said: “[The emergency services] told me that the way this fire had spread and took hold of the building was rapid, it was ferocious, it was unexpected.

“So it is right that, in addition to the immediate fire report that will be produced and any potential police investigation, that we do have a full public inquiry to get to the bottom of this.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also visited the site, meeting residents affected by the fire.

He told community leaders “the truth has to come out”.

Number 10 confirmed the inquiry will be judge-led.

The BBC’s assistant political editor Norman Smith said: “It (the inquiry) will almost certainly hold its evidence sessions in public and those who will give evidence will include the local council, the builders, the contractors but yes too, I suspect the tenants and the relatives of some of the victims.”

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Images obtained by the BBC show the size of the task facing investigators

Housing minister Alok Sharma said the government is working with the local authority to ensure that “every single family will be re-housed in the local area”.

Fire minister Nick Hurd called the fire a “national tragedy” and said there was “no room for plodding bureaucracy”.

He said there should be “no stone unturned on this because we completely understand the shock, the concern, the anger, the frustration, the fear that is out there”.

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PA

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Sniffer dogs have been sent in to search for evidence

Firefighters were called to the 24-storey residential tower in the early hours of Wednesday, at a time when hundreds of people were inside, most of them sleeping.

Many were woken by neighbours, or shouts from below, and fled the building.

Fire crews rescued 65 adults and children, but some stayed in their homes, trapped by smoke and flames.

More than 30 people remain in hospital – 17 of whom are in a critical condition.

The Queen earlier said her “thoughts and prayers” are with families.


At the scene

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AFP

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Melani Urbano is looking for her sister Jessica, who is missing

By Lucy Manning, special correspondent, BBC News

For the families of the missing, grief is mixing with anger.

They are angry at the lack of information about their relatives. Many just don’t know if they are alive, dead or injured.

I spoke to one man: his cousin, her husband and their baby are missing.

He is pleading for the police, the hospitals, the authorities to give him information about those who are injured or who might have died.

It’s a complaint I’ve heard from families after terror attacks: that the system doesn’t seem to help the families. That the wait is too long and agonising.

His relatives had to trawl round hospitals and, thanks to a nurse, found two missing children but they haven’t found the rest of the family.

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