Grenfell Tower fire: £1m raised as search for victims continues

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The death toll from the devastating tower block fire in west London is expected to rise as investigators trawl through the wreckage in the search for other victims.

At least 12 people have died after the huge fire destroyed Grenfell Tower in north Kensington, where flames could still be seen burning more than a day on from the disaster.

Smoke billows from a fire that has engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London.  Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Smoke billows from a fire that has engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Over£1 million has been raised to help those affected as fire tore through the 24-storey building while volunteers and charities helped with feed and shelter people who could not return to their homes overnight.

A wall of condolence was put up near the scene with photographs showing dozens of messages left for loved ones.

Prime Minister Theresa May has promised a “proper investigation” after the building went up in flames early on Wednesday morning amid growing concerns about how the fire could have spread so rapidly.

Speaking in Downing Street, Mrs May said: “When it’s possible to identify the cause of this fire, then of course there will be proper investigation and if there are any lessons to be learnt they will be, and action will be taken.”

A woman cries as she tries to locate a missing relative suspected of being affected by the massive fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower. Picture: Getty Images

A woman cries as she tries to locate a missing relative suspected of being affected by the massive fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower. Picture: Getty Images

READ MORE: Grenfell Tower fire: Death toll rises to 12

Companies, individuals and charities sprang into action to help those in need of food, water, clothes and shelter after the inferno in north Kensington.

Three appeals have raised a seven-figure sum in just over 24 hours since the blaze which killed a dozen people and left scores more injured.

An appeal on JustGiving launched by Karolina Hanusova raised £286,437 while another set up by Hayley Yearwood has generated £431,910.

Mariem Elgwahry, 27 who is missing in the Grenfell Tower fire. Picture: Handout

Mariem Elgwahry, 27 who is missing in the Grenfell Tower fire. Picture: Handout

The London Evening Standard launched an appeal on a dedicated website dispossessedfund.org.uk, raising £282,939 as of 6am on Thursday.

The three appeals had more than 30,000 supporters between them, with supporters leaving messages including “My heart goes out to all those that had to gone through this” and “A terrible tragedy. My heart cries for all those lives lost”.

David Holdsworth, chief operating officer at the Charity Commission, has urged people to give to registered causes.

He said: “We are saddened to hear of the tragic events in west London.

A firefighter investigates athe charred ruin of a floor in the west London tower.  Picture: Rick Findler/PA Wire

A firefighter investigates athe charred ruin of a floor in the west London tower. Picture: Rick Findler/PA Wire

“There are many registered charities on the ground doing what they do best to assist those who have been affected.

“We are urging members of the public that wish to make donations to check that they give to a registered charity in order to best support those affected, and also importantly to check with those charities what support they need - whether that is money, time or other essential supplies.”

Rest centres at the Westway Sports Centre in Crowthorne Road, St Clement Church, Treadgold Street and the Rugby Portobello Trust in Walmer Road, cared for people overnight.

Local football clubs Queens Park Rangers (QPR) and Fulham rushed to support those left homeless by the blaze.

QPR said it had opened its doors and facilities to those affected by the fire, but also said it could not accept any more donations, while Fulham also helped with the collection drive.

A number of individuals also reached out via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to offer accommodation and transport help to those affected.

One woman, named Giselle, tweeted: “Just called (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) @RBKC and left my details. They are looking for emergency housing. I have offered my place. Do the same if you can #Grenfell”

Instagram user co._lams posted an image reading: “Any residents of Grenfell Tower or Lancaster West Estate who need a local place to stay DM me.”

READ MORE: How did the Grenfell fire spread so quickly?

Residents’ groups have claimed they voiced concerns about the safety of the building, which had been recently refurbished, while those who escaped complained their fire alarms had not been set off by the blaze.

One focus for the investigation will be the building’s cladding, which TV architect George Clarke said may have accelerated the blaze.

Mr Clarke, who lives locally and appears on Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces, told BBC’s Newsnight: “I saw those cladding panels, the cladding on the outside and the insulation was just peeling off, like you’d peel a banana.

“It was fully on fire. I could see the flames behind - there’s a new cladding system put on the outsides that looks like a new skin, there’s an air gap an insulation behind that, to me that looks like a fantastic chimney for the fire to rage around.”

Grenfell Tower, which built in 1974, was recently refurbished at a cost of £8.6 million, with work completed in May last year.

Kensington and Chelsea Council admitted it had received complaints over the works, after a residents’ action group said its warnings about safety had fallen on “deaf ears”.

A blog post from Grenfell Action Group in November said “only a catastrophic event” would expose the concerns residents had.

The group said there was one entry and exit to the tower during improvement works and it had issues with evacuation procedures.

Concerns had also been raised about exposed gas pipes weeks before the devastating blaze.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said “searching questions” need to be asked about what happened, suggesting spending cuts could have contributed to the deadly fire, while general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union Matt Wrack said: “The truth is this should not be happening in the UK, one of the wealthiest countries in the world.”

How the disaster unfolded

:: 12.50am - Maryam Adam, 41, is awoken by her neighbour who says his fourth-floor flat is on fire.

:: 12.54am - The first of “multiple” 999 calls is made to the London Fire Brigade.

:: 1am - The first fire crews arrive on the scene and were faced with a “rapidly developing and incredibly complex” fire at the 24-storey building.

:: 1.16am - Police are called to the scene at the Lancaster West Estate and begin an evacuation procedure. Officers confirm “a number of people” are injured.

:: 1.29am - London Ambulance Service is called to reports of the fire, sending 20 ambulance crews and a hazardous response team.

:: 1.41am - Twitter user Fabio Bebber posts a picture of the fire, which had spread to the top floor, with the caption: “Fire consuming Grenfell Tower. People screaming for their lives. Horrible.”

:: 1.46am - A video shared on Twitter shows the fire has spread to both sides of the building as the night sky is illuminated orange.

:: 2.34am - Mr Bebber posts saying he has seen someone on the top floor using a flashlight to draw attention

:: 2.49am - London Fire Brigade says 200 firefighters have been called to the blaze.

:: 4.43am - The sun rises in London with smoke pouring into the morning sky - witnesses speak of throwing children from the block while others reportedly tie bedsheets together to climb down.

:: 6.15am - LAS say they have taken 30 patients to five hospitals.

:: 7.50am - London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton confirms there have been a “number of fatalities” at the fire.

:: 8.15am - LAS increases the number of patients taken to hospital to more than 50, adding 100 medics are working at the incident.

:: 11.16am - Police say six people are known to have died but expect the figure to rise.

:: 11.45am - LAS says 64 patients have been taken to hospital, 20 in critical care. A further 10 people have made their own way to hospital, the service adds.

:: 11.59am - Construction firm Rydon, which completed a refurbishment of Grenfell Tower in 2016, says it is “shocked to hear of the devastating fire”.

:: 5.00pm - The death toll increases to 12 and police say the recovery operation will be “long and complex”.

:: 8.22pm - Prime Minister Theresa May says there will be a “proper investigation” following the fire, adding: “If there are any lessons to be learned they will be, and action will be taken.”