UK

Grenfell tower: Scenes in flats 'apocalyptic', says coroner

Three women Image copyright PA
Image caption Grenfell Tower survivors gathered at the Olympia conference centre in London for the meeting

The scene inside Grenfell Tower is "apocalyptic", a coroner told angry survivors calling for more details.

During a three-hour meeting with Dr Fiona Wilcox, survivors asked for information about the missing, but were told the "recovery phase" could last until the end of the year.

Police also faced questions as to why there had not as yet been any arrests.

It comes after officials said all survivors who want to be rehoused had been offered temporary accommodation.

The fire on 14 June killed at least 80 people, although police say the final toll will not be known for many months.

The meeting was held at the Olympia conference centre in West Kensington on Tuesday evening.

Lotifa Begum, from the Grenfell Muslim Response Unit (GMRU), told the Press Association some of those in attendance were "very upset and angry", while several became overwhelmed and had to leave.

Ms Begum said many families "would have appreciated a lot more time and notice" before the meeting was held.

Nabil Choucair fears he has lost six members of his family who lived on the 22nd floor of Grenfell Tower.

Three adults - Nadia, Sirria and Bassam - are believed to have been in the flat, as well as children Zainab, Fatima and Mierna, aged three, 10 and 13.

He told the BBC: "We personally asked where is our family? We want to know are our family's bodies still there and is there anything from them?

"Whatever it is we want to know exactly what it is, do not hide anything. But the answers that were coming back were 'we don't know, we don't know, we don't know'."

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Media captionGrenfell Tower survivor Antonio is living in a hotel and has turned down two flats.

It has been reported that people were told before the meeting they would not be allowed to directly question Dr Wilcox or Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy. They were also told to email their questions in by 11:00 BST on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Grenfell Response Team says 139 formal offers of housing have now been made to survivors, after Prime Minister Theresa May promised housing would be offered to those in need by Wednesday.

However, only 14 offers have been accepted and many are still in hotels.

A spokesman for North Kensington Law Centre - which represents more than 100 Grenfell victims - said many of the offers had been unsuitable.

Sid-Ali Atmani said the accommodation his family had been offered was too far away from his daughter's school and not big enough.

"They need to deal with us as victims in an appropriate way and with dignity," he told BBC Breakfast. "We become numbers and we don't have names. This is so frustrating… in three weeks they haven't found any solution."

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Media captionSid-Ali Atmani and daughter Hayam lived on the 15th floor in Grenfell Tower

Antonio, who lived on the 10th floor of Grenfell Tower, has turned down two offers of accommodation, saying they do not meet his needs.

"I had a very comfortable and nice flat on the 10th floor," he told the BBC. "I had a very comfortable life, I had a very comfortable home.

"Now the feeling is that they are trying to put us into places just to say 'we have complied with what we said we were going to do'."

Eleanor Kelly, chief executive of Southwark Council and spokeswoman for the Grenfell Response Team, told BBC Breakfast there was an "enormous emotional impact" on the families, so it would take time for permanent moves to take place.

"It is going to take people a long time to really work through where they want to go," she said. "That's why many of the families are choosing to stay in the emergency hotel accommodation for the moment and then make a permanent move.

"We have to understand that and we have to deal with each individual family and their circumstances as appropriately and as sensitively as we can."

Survivors' timescale

Robert Atkinson, leader of the Labour Party at Kensington and Chelsea Council, said decisions about accommodation should be taken by survivors when they are ready - and not just to meet government deadlines.

"It's very important that the survivors are allowed to make their decisions in their own good time and I'm somewhat annoyed at the focus on getting this target met so that the prime minister can say that she has fulfilled her promise," he said.

"I want these arrangements to be made in the timescale and at the pace at which the victims and survivors wish to make these decisions."

In other developments:

  • Family and friends of missing Jessica Urbano released balloons to mark her 13th birthday
  • Cladding from 190 high-rise buildings in England has failed combustibility tests, the government says - an increase of nine since the last update
  • Buildings at London's King's College Hospital, Sheffield's children's hospital and the North Middlesex Trust have also failed fire safety tests
  • A contractor which the Evening Standard says was responsible for fire alarms at Grenfell Tower is reportedly being investigated for fraud. Lakehouse has been accused of installing defective safety equipment in hundreds of London properties, but the company denies any wrongdoing
  • Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid has said public policy failings over several decades may have contributed to the disaster

It comes amid growing pressure for Sir Martin Moore-Bick - the judge leading the inquiry into the fire - to stand down.

Labour's Emma Dent Coad, MP for Kensington, has described him as "a technocrat" who lacked "credibility" with victims.

On Monday, lawyers representing some of the families also called for him to quit.

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Media captionEmma Dent Coad tells BBC's Today a "technocrat" is not what's needed

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn stopped short of demanding his resignation, but said he should "listen to residents", while Mayor of London Sadiq Khan warned he must urgently improve relations with the area.

But one senior minister, Lord Chancellor David Lidington, said he had "complete confidence" in Sir Martin, whom he believed would lead the inquiry "with impartiality and a determination to get to the truth and see justice done".

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