Number of dead now officially up to 70, and still rising. At least one of the dead was a patient on the critical care list.
For a new account of Portuguese who miraculously escaped with their lives, see our story: https://www.portugalresident.com/portuguese-%E2%80%9Chero%E2%80%9D-describes-moments-in-hell-evacuating-family-from-grenfell-tower-inferno
Since writing this story (scroll down), the official number of dead has risen to 17 and a police source has warned that this is expected to increase “considerably”.
A total of 37 people are still being treated in hospital, 17 still in critical care.
The Portuguese children are believed to have been put in an induced coma, but are otherwise stable.
Their heavily pregnant mother has also required treatment. Tabloid Correio da Manhã has raised concerns over the survival of the woman’s unborn child.
More information on Portuguese victims will emerge tomorrow (Friday).
CM reveals, for example, that music student Francisco Ramos from Madeira escaped injury simply because he was still out when the fire began.
By the time he came home, the blaze had started.
Needless to say there are still concerns that there may have been more Portuguese involved. Counsellor for the Portuguese Communities has told CM that it is “impossible, for now, to guarantee that there are not more Portuguese among the missing”.
A number of people are still ‘missing’ as a result of the fire, as the story has now become essentially ‘political’, centering on the issues that led to such a tragedy after so many warnings from different quarters appear to have been sounded.
Prime Minister Theresa May has announced there will be a “full public inquiry” to ensure “this terrible tragedy is investigated”. She has come under fire, however, for visiting the site to talk to emergency services without agreeing to meet residents.
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn took time to meet residents and hear their stories, telling them: “We have got to get to the bottom of this. The truth has got to come out, and it will”.
Endlessly running reports today, Sky News has warned of “tensions running high” as political VIPs start visiting community centres where hundreds of survivors are now being cared for.
“People are angry”, said reporter Mark White.
ORIGINAL STORY, FILED WEDNESDAY:
Two Portuguese children are among the mounting victims of the horrific tower block fire that began late last night, devastating a close-knit multi-racial West London community in UK, and killing at least 12.
The children who have not yet been named are in hospital where they were initially described as having “a reserved prognosis”.
Updated reports have pronounced them “free from danger” though they continue under medical observation.
The children are among a number of Portuguese who were living in Grenfell Tower, reports Lusa.
They are girls, aged 11 and 13.
Grenfell Tower became a flaming beacon across the London skyline late last night following what has been described as the explosion of a fridge on the fourth floor.
The Portuguese children’s parents were also assisted by rescue teams, but are said to be fine.
A source of the Secretary of State for the Communities reports that three Portuguese families lived in the block as well as two other nationals.
All are reported to have escaped with their lives, though they have lost their homes and almost all their possessions.
Stories of the fire, and how residents were seen jumping from high windows, have been beaming across television channels this morning, with the number of fatalities almost certain to increase.
This has been an ‘unprecedented’ incident, said fire chief Danny Cotton – giving numbers of the injured as being at least 70 people, 20 of them on the critical list.
The ensuing fallout is certain to reverberate for days.
First, there is the huge issue of rehousing hundreds of families from the blackened shell of the 24-storey block. But then there will be the inquiry of how the blaze could have spread so quickly and with such devastating effect. Locals have already been telling reporters about ‘gas pipes along the stairways’.
Even now, over 12 hours since firefighters reached the scene, Grenfell Tower is still smouldering.
Updates to follow:
4.30 pm and the stories of Portuguese who escaped with their families from the burning block suggest ‘mismanagement’ of the situation will quickly become a major issue.
Aside from a report in the Guardian that claims the block’s Grenfell Action Group had warned of “dangerous living conditions” – affirming last year that “it is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the Kensingston and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation.” – Portuguese media has been hearing from nationals who lived in the block that the incident was poorly managed in its early stages.
Miguel Alves, who lived on the 13th floor with his wife and grown-up children (son, 20, daughter 18), was coming home from a night out when the fire had already taken hold.
He told Lusa news agency that, approaching the building, there was nothing to suggest at this point that there was anything wrong.
He pressed the button for the 13th floor as other two people entered, pressing the button for the 4th.
When the lift doors opened, the group realised the 4th floor was full of smoke.
Alves said he told his wife to go back downstairs as he rushed upstairs to the couple’s apartment to collect their children.
The family are all safe, and Alves got out of the building with his son and daughter “without any problems”, he said.
“When I got down, the situation really was not so bad”, he added. “That’s why I question why the authorities didn’t sound the alarm immediately, bearing in mind that they were already on site when I reached the street”.
“The firefighters and the police did not act rapidly”, the 49-year-old driiver stressed. “They did not alert people straight away to the fire”.
As it was, Alves took it on himself to alert neighbours on his floor before getting out of the building with his children.
Lusa reports that the father-of-two who has been living in UK since 1998 is part of the “commission of residents” who some time ago alerted the council to security problems at Grenfell Tower, “namely the risk of fire”.
Refurbishment works a few years ago involved “highly inflammable exterior cladding”, he said.
Meantime, extraordinary stories of survival have emerged: a baby survived being ‘thrown from a ninth or 10th floor window” into the arms of a waiting man, while a five year old made it out alive after his desperate mother (who may have died in the blaze) threw him from a “5th or 6th floor window” in a makeshift parachute.
The little boy suffered “some injuries and broken bones” an eye-witness told reporters, but he is alive.
Television news channels continue to report on the numbers in ‘critical care’ in five London hospitals, but it appears the Portuguese residents are all safe and well.
Among pressing questions now is how secure the blackened shell of Grenfell Tower is. Structural engineers are working on this, as UK media reports on the concerns one local councillor had about the Kensington and Chelsea Tenancy Management Organisation, to such an extent that he resigned as its chairman several years ago.
Reg Kerr-Bell told the UK Telegraph: “This is a scandal. This is one of the biggest scandals in the country – and it could have been avoided.”
He added that the block’s refurbishment contract “should never have been managed by TMO” (Tenancy Management Organisation).
“It was too big for them. My great concern was about the viability of the project.”
Kerr-Bell said he met a former director only two days ago to discuss his concerns.
“We felt there was a disaster waiting to happen and we were going to have a meeting with the MP so that we could put these concerns to them”, he said..
“That was two days ago and today he phoned me and said: ‘You will not believe what is going on’.
“It is not going to finish with this – this is just the start”.