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58 Presumed Dead in London Tower Blaze, Police Say

The deadly blaze has mushroomed into a political crisis, testing the fragile government of Prime Minister Theresa May. Her political future — already in doubt after her Conservative Party lost its governing majority in snap elections she called — has been further questioned because of her response to the fire. Some have even referred to it as Mrs. May’s Hurricane Katrina moment.

The prime minister’s response, characterized as stilted and lacking empathy, and her failure to meet with victims during an initial visit to the site only served to amplify complaints about her leadership. When Mrs. May finally went out to meet with victims at St. Clement’s Church on Friday — one of several sites near the tower offering clothes, food and toiletries to victims and their loved ones — she was heckled with shouts of “Coward!”

Angry crowds also stormed a local government office on Friday, shouting, “We want justice” and demanding that the authorities provide an accounting of the victims, as well as support for the survivors. Mrs. May has announced a fund of about $ 6.5 million for the victims.


After London Fire, Angry Protesters Demand ‘Justice’

Demonstrators heckled Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain on Friday and stormed the local council that owns Grenfell Tower, which was incinerated in a deadly fire on Wednesday.

Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. Watch in Times Video »

Fire safety experts believe that cladding used on the building’s exterior may have fueled the blaze. Many residents are still unaccounted for, and the police said some remains may never be identified. Community groups have said that warnings about poor fire safety have long been ignored, and that in the aftermath of the disaster, officials failed to immediately take care of those affected.

The fire has also become a symbol of class inequality — the Grenfell Tower’s charred remains stand high above one of the British capital’s wealthiest neighborhoods. The building had been home to a diverse group of residents, many of them from Sudan, Eritrea and Syria. The first victim to be identified was Mohammed Alhajali, a 23-year-old Syrian refugee.

A short walk away, however, are apartments and houses that cost millions of pounds and are home to a wealthy elite that residents of the Grenfell Tower had seen as a world apart.

In an interview with the BBC, Mrs. May promised a public inquiry into the disaster and pledged that survivors would be rehoused within weeks. “We’ll get to the bottom of this,” she said.

On Saturday, a planned protest was canceled, and Mrs. May met with victims of the blaze at her 10 Downing Street offices for two and a half hours. Neither side immediately released details of the talks.

Source: NYT > World

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