After tragedy upon tragedy, it was left to the Queen to try to make sense of it all.
In her official birthday message yesterday, she issued a rallying call to the nation following the Grenfell Tower fire – now the single most deadly blaze of modern times.
With others, including Theresa May, facing growing criticism for their mishandling of the disaster, her words were deftly judged – and came as much-needed balm.
The Queen said it was ‘difficult to escape the very sombre national mood’, adding that, put to the test, the UK ‘has been resolute in the face of adversity… we are equally determined, without fear or favour, to support those rebuilding lives so horribly affected by injury and loss’.
Council officials and politicians have been castigated for their slow response to last Wednesday’s inferno, which police said yesterday has claimed the lives of at least 58 people.
Residents spoke of the council’s failure to co-ordinate the humanitarian response. People’s shock quickly turned to anger yesterday after protesters took to the streets of central London
At the scene yesterday, Met Police commander Stuart Cundy confirmed that 30 people had died, while another 28 were missing, adding he had to ‘assume’ these people had died
Search and rescue personnel are pictured on the very top floor of the Grenfell Tower. the grim search for bodies continues
After tragedy upon tragedy, it was left to the Queen to try to make sense of it all while others, including Theresa May (pictured leaving St Clement’s Church close to Grenfell Tower), facing growing criticism for their mishandling of the disaster
The Prime Minister was met by protesting crowds after she visited the church close to the scene of the tragedy
Praising the support of volunteers in both London and Manchester in the wake of the terrible fire and recent terror atrocities, the Queen said she had been struck by the willingness of people to ‘offer comfort and support to those in desperate need’.
The Prime Minister, meanwhile, missed Trooping The Colour to meet Grenfell survivors, volunteers and community leaders in Downing Street.
It was her third attempt to set things right after she was criticised for meeting only officials when she visited the scene on Thursday.
On Friday, after seeing victims during a low-profile church visit, she was met with cries of ‘coward’ and ‘shame on you’ as police held back an angry crowd.
Yesterday, friends and family of those missing following the fire again told how their efforts to try to find information about their loved ones was still being met with chaos and frustration.
As Theresa May admitted the support on the ground was ‘not good enough’, they said there appeared to be no centralised ‘missing’ list and they had been forced to visit or call rescue centres and hospitals for news.
Mirna Suleiman, 26, a family friend of the first officially named victim, 23-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammad Alhajali, claimed his family had been told by the designated casualty line that there was no such list – even a day and a half after the fire.
For added protection, sniffer dogs that are being sent into Grenfell Tower are wearing ‘buster boots’, which protect their paws from broken glass and other debris that litters the floor of the gutted building
The grim search for bodies continued as London Fire Brigade’s canine units were sent into the 24-storey towerblock in North Kensington
She said: ‘I spoke to the casualty helpline and they didn’t have any information. They didn’t offer any help. I was expecting to hear lists of missing people, lists of people who had died, passed away. [But there was] nothing, they weren’t collating these numbers.’
She also claimed the rescue centres held no formal records of those that had attended, and said one hospital had even told her they were unable to say whether Mr Alhajali was there because of ‘confidentiality reasons’.
Yesterday, the grim search for bodies continued as London Fire Brigade’s canine units were sent into the 24-storey towerblock in North Kensington, along with the Met’s urban search and rescue dogs. Kitted out in high-visibility harnesses, the sniffer dogs are searching the upper floors of the building for the dead.
The Queen said it was ‘difficult to escape the very sombre national mood’, adding that, put to the test, the UK ‘has been resolute in the face of adversity
Her Majesty met with heroic firefighters during a visit to Westway Sports Centre, which is providing temporary shelter for those who have been made homeless
A man holds up a missing person poster during the visit by the Queen. 30 people are confirmed dead while another 28 are missing
FAMILY SAY NADIA IS THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW
Nadia Choucair has been named by relatives as the woman seen desperately waving a makeshift flat from the upper floors of Grenfell Tower
The person waving a makeshift flag from the upper floors of Grenfell Tower, pictured left, has been named by relatives as mother-of-three Nadia Choucair.
The haunting photograph of the figure in the window desperately trying to attract attention became a disturbing early image of the tragedy.
The 29-year-old worked at Avondale Park Primary School in nearby Notting Hill.
Mrs Choucair and her husband Bassem, 38, were identified by relatives as the couple at the 22nd floor window, silhouetted against a backdrop of flames.
The image came to epitomise the suffering of the victims of Wednesday’s disaster and the helplessness of firefighters as the blaze engulfed the building.
The couple are missing and feared dead, along with four other family members, spanning a total of three generations.
Their daughters Fatima, three, Zaynab, ten, and 13-year-old Mierna, as well as Mrs Choucair’s mother Sirra, from Lebanon, are all believed to have died in the tragedy. Mrs Choucair’s sister, Sawsan Choucair, revealed she spoke to the family at about 3am. She said: ‘They were just screaming, and I was shouting, “Get out – try to find an exit or something.” ’
Another relative, Hisam Choucair, said: ‘I would like to say to the Government that I would like to see reform into all high-rise buildings in London.’
For added protection, they are wearing ‘buster boots’, which protect their paws from broken glass and other debris that litters the floor of the gutted building.
At the scene yesterday, Met Police commander Stuart Cundy confirmed that 30 people had died, while another 28 were missing, adding he had to ‘assume’ these people had died. It means the tragedy has eclipsed 1985’s Bradford football stadium fire, which left 56 dead.
However the loss is likely to be greater. The commander stressed this information was based only on the number of people they believe were in the tower when it caught fire.
‘That number 58 may change,’ he said. ‘I really hope it won’t but it may increase. My commitment to families is that as soon as we can, we will locate and recover their loved ones.’
Mr Cundy also spoke out about the community’s concerns that the true number of those who died was being suppressed. ‘I really do understand the frustration of so many about not knowing the scale of the tragedy that is unfolding behind us,’ he added.
Demonstrators shout outside Kensington Town Hall, during a protest on Friday following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block.
Demonstrators held up banners during the March in Westminster. There are growing demands for answers as to how the tragedy could have happened
Calling for justice and answers over the Grenfell Tower disaster: Residents say victims of the tragedy are not receiving enough support
Campaigners are pressing for a rapid ‘interim investigation’ to give residents key answers, without having to wait ‘years’ for a public inquiry to conclude
A demonstrator pictured during the march in Westminster. Grief-stricken residents have spoken of the Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council’s failure to co-ordinate the humanitarian response
Meanwhile, safety concerns prompted officials to shut two Tube lines which run within yards of Grenfell Tower.
Fire safety experts who carried out an inspection yesterday asked Transport for London to close the Hammersmith and City and Circle lines, which run within roughly 60 yards of the tower, over fears debris could fall on to the tracks.
Elsewhere on the estate surrounding the tower, fury continued to mount over the ‘appalling’ lack of help for victims.
Residents spoke of the council’s failure to co-ordinate the humanitarian response. Community organiser Pilgrim Tucker said: ‘There’s been no coordination at all. I have not seen a single council officer at the scene. Where are the authorities?
‘Volunteers have picked it up and there has been amazing support and help but it shouldn’t have to be like this. I haven’t seen or heard from anyone from central government.
‘There is no evidence of it at all. We have got the emergency services down here, local people doing the best they can and the army of fantastic volunteers, but there is no official response.’
Community organiser Pilgrim Tucker said: ‘There’s been no coordination at all. I have not seen a single council officer at the scene. Where are the authorities?
Mr Barshall added: ‘If he had any decency, the council leader, Nick Paget-Brown, would resign immediately’
Andrew Barshall, a local social housing campaigner, said: ‘There has been no central coordination between the different relief centres. The volunteers have just had to work it out for themselves which is quite disgusting.
‘If he had any decency, the council leader, Nick Paget-Brown, would resign immediately.’ Campaigners, meanwhile, are pressing for a rapid ‘interim investigation’ to give residents key answers, without having to wait ‘years’ for a public inquiry to conclude.
IT project manager Melvyn Akins, 34, who grew up on the estate surrounding the tower, said: ‘We want an interim investigation started immediately. It can be done in about eight weeks, and would give us initial findings.
‘Momentum is everything, and the people who are responsible have to be held to account.’ Those responsible may retire or die in the next few years, he added, ‘and how can you prosecute then?’
Emma Dent Coad, MP for Kensington is pictured with Labour leader Jermemy Corbyn. She claimed some victims had been sent out of the borough with just £10 to live on per day
Many campaigners also say they have yet to receive any cash promised by the Government to help them rebuild their lives. Many are having to rely on handouts from volunteers collecting money from well-wishers.
Last night, Emma Dent Coad, MP for Kensington, claimed some victims had been sent out of the borough with just £10 to live on per day. Last night, it also emerged that relatives who lost family members are being blocked from accessing money donated to them on the JustGiving website.
Lawyer Jules Carey told a public meeting: ‘Huge amounts of funds have been collected but the money cannot be released because JustGiving rules state it can only go to a registered authority.’ To access it, a families will have to set up a charity. Alternatively, a charity could be chosen by community leaders to receive the money.
It is understood that JustGiving will receive at least £115,000 in fees as a result of the £2.3 million donated so far.
Meanwhile, some of the biggest names in British pop answered a call from Simon Cowell and began work on a charity single to raise funds for the victims.
Rita Ora, Leona Lewis, James Blunt, Paloma Faith and Craig David arrived at a studio in Ladbroke Grove – less than a mile away – to record a version of Bridge Over Troubled Water.