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Grief turns to anger as protesters march over London tower fire response

Protesters in London have demanded justice in the wake of a deadly high-rise tower fire that left dozens of residents dead and missing. Prime Minister Theresa May has been rebuked for her response to the tragedy.

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London fire: dwindling hope for survivors

Hundreds of protesters on Friday stormed the local town hall in Kensington and Chelsea, the borough where a fire ripped through a high-rise tower block earlier this week, leaving 30 people dead and scores unaccounted for.

Anger is mounting amid reports that Grenfell Tower, which housed around 600 people in 120 apartments, was in an unsafe condition and that council officials had ignored complaints from residents about safety violations.

Read more: Anger in Britain as Grenfell Tower death toll looks set to rise

The local council owned the 1970s tower block and was responsible for its maintenance.

Insulation panels recently installed on the 24-story tower are thought to have helped the fire spread rapidly from one floor to the next. On Friday, The Guardian newspaper reported that contractors had chosen to install a cheaper, less flame-resistant type of paneling when the tower was renovated last year.

A small number of protesters managed to storm the council building but were quickly confronted and escorted out by police and security staff.

May criticized for fire response

Angry residents also heckled UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who had returned to the site of the devastating fire a day after she was sharply criticized for lacking compassion because she failed to meet with locals when she first visited the burnt-out shell. The prime minister faced stinging cries of "Shame on you!" and "Coward!" 

Authorities were also forced to hold back crowds as May's car drove off from a local church where she had been meeting with survivors, residents and volunteers.

Earlier Friday, Queen Elizabeth II and her grandson, Prince William, visited a community center housing some of the survivors.

Some 1,400 demonstrators also marched on the Houses of Parliament and other government quarters in Westminster, bringing traffic to a standstill. The march then headed to May's residence at Downing Street, where protesters called on the prime minister to resign, before moving on toward central London. DW's Dana Regev was at the scene.

Death toll rises to 30

The death toll from the tower block blaze has risen to 30, police said Friday, adding that they expected that figure to increase as hope of finding survivors quickly fades. Twenty-four people remain in hospital, with 12 in critical care.

"We know that at least 30 people have died as a result of this fire," Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy told reporters, adding that the blaze did not appear to have resulted from arson. "We have examined the original location where the fire started, and there is nothing to suggest at this time that the fire was started deliberately."

According to UK media, more than 70 Grenfell residents still remain unaccounted for. Residents have demanded that authorities return their loved ones' remains, although police have warned that the recovery process could take several weeks.

"I have friends in the tower and they are not telling us anything," Grenfell resident Salwa Buamani told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

"The fact that they are not telling people is very frustrating," said Karen Brown, a fellow resident. "We are not stupid, we are aware people are dead. Just tell them!"

The aftermath of the fire shows the devastation of Grenfell Tower in London (Picture alliance/abaca/K. Green)

Firefighters are continuing the recovery process, but officials warn some bodies will be impossible to identify

May announces emergency fund

Theresa May has announced a 5 million-pound ($6.4 million/5.7 million-euro) fund to provide Grenfell residents with emergency supplies, food and clothing.

"Everyone affected by this tragedy needs reassurance that the government is there for them at this terrible time - and that is what I am determined to provide," the prime minister said.

The package includes a guarantee to rehouse people as close as possible to where they previously lived. Grenfell Tower is located in a working-class enclave in one of London's richest neighborhoods.

dm/cmk (AP, AFP, dpa)

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