The Queen meets victims of Grenfell Tower fire


The Queen and Prince William have met victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and members of the emergency services at a refuge centre in west London.

Her Majesty and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Westway Sports Centre, where people left homeless are being looked after, close to the charred remains of the tower block.

As the Queen heard how the local community had provided support following the tragedy, she said their response had “come over very strongly”.

Prince William said to a volunteer that “things like that you never want to see.”

He told another volunteer: “That’s one of the most terrible things I have ever seen.”

Her Majesty and her grandson also signed a book of condolence in front of a wall which has been plastered with posters of people who are missing following the fire.

As they were about to leave, a man holding a poster showing two missing siblings called for William to go over.

The prince said he had to leave, but shouted: “I’ll come back, I’ll come back.”

The number of people confirmed dead has risen to at least 30, Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy said on Friday afternoon. That number is expected to rise significantly.

The figure includes one person who has passed away after being taken to hospital.

Mr Cundy added that 12 victims had been taken to the mortuary, while the bodies of others remained in the tower.

He said it was “an absolute priority” to recover those still inside “as quickly, and with as much dignity as we can”.

Specialist family liaison officers are supporting 36 families.

Mr Cundy said that “our specialist investigators and experts have examined what we believe is the original location where the fire started”.

“Based on what we know,” he added, “there is nothing to suggest at this time that the fire was started deliberately.”

The Prime Minister, who was criticised on Thursday after visiting the scene without talking to victims, has been to see the injured in hospital.

She was also due to chair what is described as a “cross-Whitehall meeting” from Downing Street on Friday afternoon in response to the disaster.

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom was challenged by angry residentswhen she visited the scene on Friday morning.

London mayor Sadiq Khan, meanwhile, was heckled during his visit to the charred block.

He faced a difficult moment when a seven-year-old asked him: “How many children died? What are you going to do about it?”

Mr Khan said an interim report into the disaster should be published this summer – and in a letter to the PM has demanded “immediate” answers.

Repeated safety concerns were raised with the council over a number of years by residents.

Many blame the cladding added last year for allowing the fire to spread with frightening speed. Witnesses said it raced up the building in as little as 15 minutes.

Sky News sourced cladding made from the same material as that at Grenfell Tower – aluminium layers sandwiching polyethylene insulation in the middle – and tested it in a fire safety testing laboratory.

We subjected it to temperatures of 700C – a medium heat for testing. After two minutes in the heat the panel started smoking, then burst into flames. The fire at Grenfell Tower burned at 1,000C.

The Times reported that the material believed to have been used for the refurbishment has been banned in high-rise buildings in the US.

Locals also told Sky News of a gas installation they say left exposed pipes in the tower’s stairwell, with a witness saying he saw blue flames shooting out.

The lack of a sprinkler system has surprised many but the leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council said not all residents were in favour in case it delayed the refurbishment.

Experts estimate they could have been added at a cost of £200,000 during the £10m building works.

But Nick Paget-Brown told BBC Newsnight: “Many residents felt that we needed to get on with the installation of new hot water systems, new boilers and that trying to retrofit more would delay the building and that sprinklers aren’t the answer.”