LONDON – Relatives of those missing after a high-rise tower blaze in London posted pictures of their loved ones Friday in the desperate hope of news, as grief following the tragedy has turned to outrage at authorities accused of being lax in meeting building standards.
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 cannot yet be removed from the gutted structure. The death toll is still expected to rise substantially.
Families searching for their loved ones have blanketed the area near the tower with posters searching for answers, as attention turned to whether recent refurbishment on the building was done properly. The blaze ripped through the building early Wednesday, trapping many residents in their homes.
“I do sense the anger,” Conservative lawmaker Andrea Leadsom said as she faced the fury of local residents during a tour of the site.
Residents and victims have expressed outrage at Prime Minister Theresa May, who visited the site the day before without meeting with local residents. While members of her party have suggested security issues contributed to her lack of engagement with the public, residents seemed unwilling to accept the explanation.
“Meet the victims!” one person yelled as Leadsom was interviewed on Sky News.
The anger is certain to grow as other national leaders embarked on tours of the site and meetings with the afflicted.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William visited an aid distribution site and were meeting with volunteers. The monarch has expressed her sympathies to families of victims of the blaze. Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn came to the site Thursday and met with residents.
Meanwhile, Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy responded to speculation that the number of dead could exceed 100, saying: “From a personal perspective, I really hope it isn’t.”
Britain’s press reported that some 70 people were missing after compiling a list of verified reports. Authorities have not yet issued a figure and have said they genuinely don’t know how many people might have died.
Whole families are said to be among the missing, including Bassem Choukeir, his wife Nadia, her mother Sariyya and the couple’s three daughters Mirna, Fatmeh and Zaynab. They lived on the 22nd floor.
London Police said an investigation had been launched to determine whether the blaze involved any crimes and May announced a public inquiry, a type of probe that’s used to investigate issues of major public concern.
In addition, London Mayor Sadiq Khan called for an interim report on the fire to be published this summer.
The tower is in the North Kensington neighborhood, a working-class, multi-ethnic area next to some of the richest neighborhoods in Britain. Some observers asked whether hazards in the Grenfell complex, which had 120 apartments that housed as many as 600 people, were ignored because its residents are mainly poor.
A tenant group had complained for years about the risk of a fire in the building, owned by the local government in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Fire safety engineers were stunned at how rapidly the fire spread, engulfing the building in less than an hour in the middle of the night and preventing firefighters from reaching many people inside. Some jumped to their deaths rather than face the flames, and witnesses reported seeing small children thrown from the tower by their families in a desperate bid to save them.