Anger at tower inferno boils over » Manila Bulletin News

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By AFP

FROM GRIEF TO RAGE – Protesters gather close to the Grenfell Towers Friday. (AP)

London – Angry London residents heckled Prime Minister Theresa May and stormed local authority headquarters Friday as they demanded justice for the victims of a tower block fire that left 30 people dead, with dozens more unaccounted for.

May was criticized for avoiding locals when she visited the burnt-out shell of the 24-storey Grenfell Tower on Thursday, but faced cries of “shame on you” and “coward” when she returned the following day.

Dozens of police officers held back booing crowds and broke up scuffles as her car drove off from a local church, where she had met survivors, residents and volunteers and promised new funds for those affected.

There were also angry scenes outside the offices of the Kensington and Chelsea council, which was responsible for managing the 1970s social housing block, in a working-class enclave in one of London’s richest areas.

There are questions about why the block was not fitted with sprinklers or a central smoke alarm, and whether a recent refurbishment, including new external cladding, helped fuel the flames.

“It was a death trap and they knew it,” one person shouted as demonstrators swelled outside the council building, with dozens going inside and clashing with police and security guards.

“I have friends in the tower and they are not telling us anything,” said Salwa Buamani, 25, who took part in the peaceful protest outside with her three-year-old niece.

Protesters later marched to the edge of the police cordon around the tower, shouting “no justice, no peace,” where a few young men tried unsuccessfully to break through.

Another demonstration took place outside May’s Downing Street office, while later in the evening, hundreds of mourners gathered near the tower for a candlelight vigil.

The death toll rose to 30 on Friday but authorities warned it would increase further, as fire crews picked their way through the wreckage of the blaze in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

May has announced a judge-led inquiry into what happened, and on Friday promised £5 million ($6.4 million) for emergency supplies, food and clothing.

But accusations of a slow official response have heaped pressure on the premier, whose Conservative government remains in limbo after losing its parliamentary majority in last week’s election.

In an interview with the BBC late Friday, May insisted she was “deeply affected” by the “horrifying” stories of survivors, and repeated that she was determined to help.

She promised residents would be rehoused within three weeks, and rejected accusations that the government failed to act on recommendations to tighten fire regulations after a fatal block fire in London in 2009.

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