‘Get a grip’: Furious residents confront minister in the street over Grenfell Tower disaster

Cabinet ministers today faced the anger of local residents over the Grenfell Tower disaster.

As the death toll from the inferno was set to rise, the Government was urged to “get a grip” on the appalling situation. The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the scene in North Kensington and Theresa May was said to be “taking personal charge” of the Government’s response.

The Prime Minister was due to visit victims in hospital, following criticism of her failure to meet relatives yesterday. But the growing anger was laid bare when Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, was berated in the street on live TV by residents. One man said: “Enough is enough. I have got friends in that tower. I have every right to be angry. Because of people saving money, people are dying.”

Another resident Nadir, 24, said after confronting Ms Leadsom: “The Government needs to get a grip on this situation.”


Confrontation: Andrea Leadsom (BBC)

Earlier, Jonah Malika, who is looking for a friend who was in the tower, said: “Everyone in the  community is angry — they took a perfectly good building and turned it into a death trap.” 

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid was also questioned when he visited a community centre. He promised immediate action to help the victims and emphasised that urgent inspections of all similar buildings were being carried across the country.

Fire investigators have been asked to report by tomorrow, or Sunday at the latest, on what they believe caused the inferno, which is feared to have claimed dozens of lives.

The Queen visits the scene of the Grenfell Tower tragedy

Mr Javid pledged a swift response, based on the initial report to safeguard people, if necessary, in 4,000 high-rise blocks in London and other towns and cities. “We need to do whatever it takes to make people that live in those properties safe — that is either make the property safe or find other accommodation,” he said.

Experts say at least dozens, possibly hundreds, of blocks in the capital have similar cladding to Grenfell Tower.


Firefighters continue working on the shell of the tower after the blaze (Alex Lentati)

Mr Javid said: “In this country, in this century, for this kind of thing to happen it is horrific and we cannot allow anything like this to ever happen again.”

The father of four admitted he would be “worried” putting his children to bed in a high-rise building given the doubts over safety.

The latest figures from NHS England show that 24 people are still being treated in hospitals across London, with 12 of them needing critical care.

A growing number of frantic families were today desperately appealing for news about missing loved ones.

The streets around the high-rise block in North Kensington were plastered with posters begging for information about those who were in the building.

This morning, Ms Leadsom said there would be a full public inquiry into the causes. She said: “It is an absolutely terrible disaster. I have been talking to families and residents and the amazing people in this community centre.

“The Prime Minister came yesterday to look at the operation to make sure everything was being done by the Government. The Prime Minister is absolutely heartbroken.”

Voicing the anger of local people, Labour MP David Lammy, who has called for “arrests” over what he believes is “corporate manslaughter”, tweeted: “We want justice.”


People pay respects after the tragedy (AFP/Getty Images)

Ministers were ordering measures to secure school places for children, new housing and new ID documents and bank cards for people so they can get access to money.

Meanwhile, the grim search for the bodies of those killed in the tower continued. More than 70 people are believed to be unaccounted for since the blaze in the early hours of Wednesday. Police fear the fire was so devastating that some victims might never be identified.

Six bodies have been recovered from the gutted 24-storey tower. Eleven have been located inside but cannot yet be removed.

It is feared the death toll could reach three figures.

Amid unconfirmed reports that a more fire-resistant cladding could have been installed on Grenfell Tower at a cost of £5,000, Mr Javid accepted it would be “shaming” if this turned out to be true. The Cabinet minister defended Mrs May after she came under attack for visiting firefighters at the scene yesterday but not speaking to residents. It contrasted with the empathy displayed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn when he went to the area.

“Different people show their emotion in different ways. The Prime Minister is a person of action and she wants to help,” said Mr Javid, who had a private meeting with residents today.

However, former Tory Cabinet minister Michael Portillo criticised Mrs May, saying: “You have to be prepared to receive people’s emotions, and not be so frightened about people.”

Notting Hill Grenfell Tower Fire – In pictures

There were also warnings that Mrs May’s response could lead to even more pressure on her shaky premiership if it is seen as similar to the blundering reaction by US president George Bush to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Former housing ministers Gavin Barwell, now Mrs May’s chief-of-staff, and Brandon Lewis are facing a series of questions over why more safety measures were not brought in after the 2009 Lakanal House fire in Camberwell.

But the spotlight was equally on Kensington and Chelsea council, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, which hired specialist refurbishment firm Rydon to modernise the building under an £8.6 billion contract, sub-contractor Harley Facades, which was employed to install the cladding, and the panel suppliers, Suffolk-based Celotex.

A judge-led public inquiry is expected to deliver an interim report by early autumn.

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