Prime Minister Theresa May to meet Grenfell Tower disaster victims at Downing Street
Prime Minister Theresa May is set to meet victims from the Grenfell Tower disaster at Downing Street today, amid criticism levelled at her for not meeting those caught up in the fire in the immediate wake of the tragedy.
Mrs May arrived in Downing Street today where she is chairing the Government task force on the disaster. She will meet victims, volunteers and community leaders afterwards, No 10 said.
A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister is this morning chairing a cross-Government meeting to ensure everything possible is being done to support those affected by the Grenfell tragedy.
"Afterwards, she will meet a group of residents, victims, volunteers and community leaders in No 10. The PM has sent her best wishes to HM Queen on the event of her birthday."
On Saturday, NHS England said 19 people were being treated in hospital, including 10 in critical care.
Search and rescue teams from London Fire Brigade reached the second from top floor inside the Tower on Saturday.
On Friday, grief over the disaster turned into anger as protesters took to the streets to vent over the fire which killed at least 30, with dozens more deaths feared.
Mrs May was greeted with cries of "coward" and "shame on you" as she returned to the site of the devastating fire in west London on Friday.
Later, demonstrators stormed the offices of Kensington and Chelsea Council over its handling of the crisis amid concerns that earlier renovation work was linked to the dramatic spread of the blaze.
Hundreds of protesters also marched on Whitehall, central London, to voice their frustration at the Government's response to the fire, which ripped through the tower block in north Kensington on Wednesday morning.
Firefighters who rushed towards danger have spoken of their ordeal - and their fears that the tower could have collapsed like the World Trade Centre.
Leon Whitley, 34, described the scene as "hellish", adding: "It was crazy. The screams were coming from all directions. I don't think I will ever forget them".
More than £3 million has been raised for the victims of the fire, while Downing Street has pledged a £5 million fund for emergency supplies, food and clothing for victims amid concerns the death toll will rise, with more than 70 people in total still believed to be unaccounted for.
There was a large police presence as Mrs May met a group of victims, residents, volunteers and community leaders at St Clement's Church close to the scene of the horrific blaze on Friday afternoon.
But the visits, which took place more than 48 hours after the devastating fire broke out, have done little to quell the growing anger over the way she has dealt with the tragedy.
Speaking on Friday evening, Mrs May said: "Everyone affected by this tragedy needs reassurance that the Government is there for them at this terrible time - and that is what I am determined to provide."
In a television interview, the Prime Minister said the fire was "absolutely horrifying" and had been a "terrifying experience" for those affected.
But she sidestepped questions over whether she had failed to judge the public mood.
Told there was a need for the public to hear her say something had gone badly wrong and the Government accepted responsibility, Mrs May said: "Something terrible has happened.
"This is an absolutely awful fire that took place. People have lost their lives, people have had their homes destroyed, they have fled for their lives with absolutely nothing."
Two of the dead have been confirmed as 24-year-old artist Khadija Saye and Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali, 23.
Ms Saye was in her flat on the 20th floor when the fire struck, with her mother Mary Mendy, who is thought to be in her 50s.
Tottenham MP David Lammy confirmed the news on Twitter, writing: "May you rest in peace Khadija Saye. God bless your beautiful soul. My heart breaks today. I mourn the tragic loss of a wonderful young woman."
The Queen and Duke of Cambridge went to temporary relief centres on Friday where they met volunteers and residents who had lost everything.
Confirming the latest death toll, Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy said the tower remained "in a very hazardous state" but there was "nothing to suggest at this time that the fire was started deliberately".
Mr Cundy vowed police "will get to the answer of what has happened and why", adding: "If criminal offences have been committed it is us who will investigate that."
The council said 110 households had been given temporary accommodation by Friday morning, and added that it was working to find more permanent homes.
But the authority's latest statement said: "While we will try to do our utmost to ensure those affected remain in or near the borough, given the number of households involved, it is possible the council will have to explore housing options that may become available in other parts of the capital."
Mrs May's most senior minister, First Secretary of State Damian Green, defended the way she had handled the tragedy.
Mr Green said suggestions the Prime Minister does not seem to have what it takes to respond to such a disaster were "terribly unfair".
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "She's distraught by what happened as we all are."
"Absolutely she has the same degree of sympathy and horror at these events that we all have," he added.
Mr Green said the Government expected to appoint a chairman to lead the public inquiry "in days rather than weeks".
"We want it to be able to have interim reports as well," he added. "So this is not going to be one of those exercises of using a public inquiry to delay a response. Actually, we want the response to be as fast as possible."
Mr Green said the probe will look at whether sprinklers should be retrofitted to tower blocks and the Government will "follow the recommendations of the public inquiry".