British Prime Minister Theresa May met at her Downing Street office Saturday with survivors of this week’s deadly high-rise fire, a day after being chastised by protesters and as the death toll continued to rise.
May, who is facing mounting criticism for her response to Wednesday’s west London fire that killed at least 58 people, left hundreds of others homeless and dozens missing, met for 2½ hours with a delegation of family members.
Details were not disclosed, but an unidentified group spokesman said members had given May their “demands and expectations” and that a full statement would be made only “in the community, with the community.”
The death toll that London police gave Saturday includes the 30 who had already been confirmed dead.
“There are 58 people who we have been told were in Grenfell Tower on the night that are missing and, therefore, sadly, I have to assume that they are dead,” Commander Stuart Cundy told reporters at a news conference. He said the number, based on reports from the public, could rise.
First victim identified
Sixteen bodies have been removed from the blackened, 24-story public housing unit, and the first victim was formally identified as Mohammed Alhajali, 23, a Syrian refugee.
If at least 58 deaths are confirmed, the blaze would be London’s deadliest since World War II.
Before meeting with the survivors, May chaired a “cross-government” meeting at her office “to ensure everything possible is being done to support those affected” by the tragedy, a spokesman said.
The meeting came one day after May was chastised by protesters as she visited near the scene of the blaze. She faced cries of “coward” and “shame on you” as police restrained angry crowds, following accusations of avoiding local residents during a visit to the area Thursday.
Maintenance issue cited
Survivors of the building claimed the fatal fire resulted from a lack of maintenance to the tower. They also complained that May’s visit to the neighborhood was too slow and that support was lacking for those who lost relatives and homes.
Cundy said the police investigation would look into the building’s 2016 refurbishment and promised to prosecute “if there is evidence.”
Criticism of May intensified Friday after she sidestepped questions in a televised interview about whether she had underestimated the public’s anger and frustration.
In addition to fire and police investigations into the inferno, May has promised to hold public hearings. She has also pledged $6.4 million in support to the residents and promised that those who lost their homes would be relocated within three weeks.
The prime minister is still reeling from a botched snap election that resulted in her Conservative Party’s loss of its majority in Parliament.