May Orders Inquiry Into London Tower Blaze as Death Toll Rises

  • Seventeen dead, number is expected to increase, Mayor says
  • Labour’s Corbyn says residents he met on site are very angry

London Mayor Promises Answers on Cause of Tower Fire

Prime Minister Theresa May ordered an investigation into a devastating fire in a London tower block, a national tragedy that is testing her leadership as public anger grows about years of budget cuts and overlooked safety warnings.

Social media came down hard on May, who visited the scene and was accused of not meeting with locals, while her political rival Jeremy Corbyn was praised for his warmth. At least 17 people were killed when a public housing apartment block went into flames in the early hours of Wednesday, with many people missing and the death toll expected to rise significantly.

“What we need to do is to ensure that this terrible tragedy is properly investigated,” May said in a pooled TV interview. “Why did this happen? People deserve answers. The inquiry will give them this.”

Theresa May visits Grenfell Tower on June 15.

Photographer: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

With Brexit talks expected to begin Monday and May still trying to cobble together a minority government, her priority has shifted into responding to questions about the cause of the blaze and the role of austerity.

Fire Minister Nick Hurd co-chaired a meeting in Parliament with lawmakers who expressed fury about the role that security oversights played in the accident. Corbyn described how he had visited the site on Thursday morning and felt “very angry.” He said residents told him they had raised concerns about this building.

“Kensington is a tale of two cities,” he said. “The south part of Kensington is incredibly wealthy; it is the wealthiest part of the country. The ward in which this fire happened is I think the poorest ward in the country."

The disaster prompted the organizers of the Mansion House dinner to cancel the showpiece event in London’s financial district. The Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond was expected to give a keynote speech on the economy and make the case for a Brexit that focuses on protecting jobs to an audience of bankers.

The fire also meant May put aside talks with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. She wants the votes of its 10 House of Commons lawmakers to back her program after last week’s inconclusive election left her short of a working majority in Parliament.

— With assistance by Svenja O'Donnell

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