London inferno extinguished; firefighters search for victims

Southwark's deputy leader Stephanie Cryan, who is cabinet member for housing, said that the "terrible news" of the Grenfell Tower fire was "particularly raw for us in Southwark, bringing back awful memories of the Lakanal fire". Senior fire officials described the progression of the fire as unprecedented.

"Our absolute priority for all of us is identifying and locating those people who are still missing", said Mr Cundy. "We need to know an explanation".

Relatives of those missing after a high-rise tower blaze in London are searching frantically for their loved ones, as the police commander in charge of the investigation says he hopes the death toll will not rise to three figures.

Asked if the death toll could climb to triple figures, he said: "From a personal perspective, I really hope it isn't".

In addition to those killed, ambulance crews took 74 people to hospitals after the fire.

"In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never, ever seen anything of this scale", Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said. She said they had only managed to search about half of the building "in detail".

More stories of residents' desperation during the catastrophe emerged.

There are a lot of courageous firefighters and police and ambulance workers.

Joe Walsh, 58, said he saw someone toss two children out a window on the fifth or sixth floor. Some adults jumped. Their fates were unclear at this time.

Specialist fire officers will meet with all public and private sector landlords over the coming days, the Manchester Evening News reports. "We like to think of ourselves as "roughty, toughty" and heroes - they are heroes - but they have feelings. People were absolutely devastated by yesterday's events", Cotton said.

The tower is in the North Kensington neighborhood, a working-class, multi-ethnic area that adjoins some of the richest neighborhoods in Britain.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated.

The focus of criticism centres on the cladding fitted to external walls on the 1970s concrete block as part of a £8.7 million refit ($11 million, 9.9 million euros) completed a year ago.

The project included installing insulated exterior cladding, double-glazed windows and a communal heating system.

A lawyer for the family of an Italian woman missing in the London high-rise fire says she told her mom in a final call: "Flames are in the living room".

A look at the photos and video of the inferno that claimed at least 17 lives shows why the cladding is a possible culprit: The flames can be seen "climbing" up the sides of the public housing building at an alarming pace, overwhelming efforts to limit the destruction. "It just reminded me of 9/11", said Muna Ali, 45.

The political fallout of the fire, which trapped dozens of people in their beds, is also hurting May's Conservative Party, who run the local council and have been blamed by the opposition for spending cuts that starved budgets for building maintenance and safety checks.

Peter Mansi was also taken aback at how quickly the fire spread.

Survivors who have lost everything spent the night at emergency shelters, as charities and local support groups were flooded with donations of clothes and bedding from shocked Londoners.

St. Clement's Notting Dale, a church near the tower, was turned into an informal center for people searching for missing friends and family.


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