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Theresa May orders public inquiry into tower fire

17 Juin 2017

Firefighters searching the smoldering ruin in west London have recovered six bodies from the 24-story Grenfell Tower, while 11 others have been located but can not yet be removed from the gutted structure.

In an interview on BBC's newsnight on Friday, the prime minister said the fire which has claimed the lives of at least 30 people with dozens more missing was "absolutely horrifying" and had been a "terrifying experience" for those affected.

Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said Thursday of the toll, "I'd like to hope that it isn't going to be triple figures".

British Prime Minister Theresa May has also ordered a judge-led public inquiry into the incident.

More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the North Kensington blaze which was reported just before 1am on Wednesday.

The Queen and her grandson, Prince William, spoke to residents and members of the emergency services near the gutted Grenfell Tower on Friday morning (Saturday NZT), while May's office said she would visit victims in hospital. Her grandson Prince William accompanied her and told a volunteer, "That's one of the most awful things I have ever seen".

The residential tower was built in 1974 and had been extensively refurbished in works that were completed past year.

"That's one of the most bad things I have ever seen", Prince William said of the fire which left the tower block a blackened shell.

He said: "We have been in constant contact with the various housing providers in Lewisham in the last couple of days and we will be writing to them all to get their assurance that risk assessments will be carried out as soon as possible".

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He said councils are also working closely with tenants to review and offer fire safety advice.

The Grenfell Action Group has spoken out about their repeated requests for improved safety in the building, writing on their blog that their "warnings fell on deaf ears".

In addition to debate over the cladding, questions have also been raised over why there was no sprinkler system in the Grenfell Tower which could have helped stop the fire spreading, or any central smoke alarm system that would have woken sleeping residents.

One of the first victims was named as 23-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali, with the Syria Solidarity Campaign director Kareen El Beyrouty launching a campaign towards funeral costs.

"Mohammed undertook a unsafe journey to flee war and death in Syria, only to meet it here in the United Kingdom, in his own home", the Syrian Solidarity Campaign said in a statement.

The 120-apartment tower was quickly engulfed with flames after the blaze broke out shortly before 1:00am Wednesday, and witnesses reported seeing the fire racing up the exterior walls.

The aluminium cladding, called Reynobond, was made by United States company Arconic and had a polyethylene core, which the reports said was slightly cheaper than fire-resistant models by the same manufacturer.

But unlike opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who was confronted by a young boy asking "How many children died?", May did not meet with residents, prompting criticism from locals, media and within her Conservative party. They cited a series of unanswered issues including whether the cladding used on the building helped the blaze spread.

"It's a completely different world up the road and they don't care about us - and that shows", one resident told Al Jazeera, gesturing to the burned out tower.