A fire at the Grenfell Tower in London on Wednesday may have killed a hundred people:
As the confirmed death toll rose to 30, there were reportedly as many as 70 people unaccounted for since the blaze, which police fear was so devastating that some victims may never be identified. The official number of deaths has sparked anger and confusion within the local community, where people believe the true number is considerably higher. — Guardian
Labour Party leader James Corbyn visited the complex on Thursday, meeting with survivors. He comforted those searching for loved ones.
Corbyn comforting a woman holding missing person flyers for a 12 year old
After his visit, Corbyn discussed housing survivors in luxury apartments nearby. The neighborhood is one of the wealthiest in London, with many apartments owned by foreign buyers which sit unoccupied for most of the year. Corbyn had earlier said that austerity cuts for public housing and Conservatives’ failure to update safety regulations might be partially responsible for the fire.
As if those criticisms weren’t bad enough, Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May compounded the crisis by failing to meet with survivors when she visited the site on Thursday. She opted to survey the location with first responders.
PM Theresa May surveying the scene with first responders
May was almost immediately excoriated by the UK papers for the stark contrast with Corbyn’s visit:
- The Guardian: Theresa May was too scared to meet the Grenfell survivors. She’s finished
- The Mirror: May faced a huge public backlash for failing to visit the victims of the tower block inferno during a visit on Thursday
- The Sun: ‘COLD AND INHUMAN’ Theresa May blasted after ‘refusing to answer a single question’ when pressed over her response to Grenfell Tower blaze
- The Telegraph: Theresa May’s cold, insensitive reaction to the Grenfell disaster puts her in great political danger
- The Spectator: Why didn’t Theresa May meet Grenfell Tower survivors?
- The Independent: Grenfell Tower fire: Theresa May did not speak to us, angry resident tells Jeremy Corbyn
In contrast, Corbyn was lauded by the press and survivors for his visit. The Independent quoted one resident saying “he’s one of us”. The criticism got to be so bad that PM May returned on Friday to visit survivors at a church being used as a shelter. As she left that visit escorted by police, she was heckled by protesters who shouted “shame on you” and “coward”.
In 2009, a fire at a public housing complex in South-East London killed six people, including three children. An investigation found the local authorities failed to maintain the building up to fire code.
There were blog posts yesterday that chronicled the repeated attempts by residents at Grenfell Towers to have management fix sprinklers, fire alarms and other equipment in the building.