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Theresa May Called 'Coward' By Angry Crowd After Pledging Fire Aid

16 June, 2017 9:35 PM
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Theresa May Called 'Coward' By Angry Crowd After Pledging Fire Aid

Theresa May met survivors privately on Friday and promised a series of aid measures, including $6.4 million (5 million pounds) for emergency costs

Prime Minister Theresa May was greeted by angry crowds shouting "coward" after she promised support for victims of a fire in a London tower block that claimed at least 30 lives.

After two days in which her government has struggled to respond to the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower, west London, May met survivors privately on Friday and promised a series of aid measures, including $6.4 million (5 million pounds) for emergency costs and a promise to find homes nearby within three weeks. They'll also be consulted on the public inquiry into the disaster announced earlier.

Police had to hold people back as she left. Elsewhere, a crowd of about 100 people gathered outside the council building of Kensington and Chelsea, chanting, "We want justice!" Dozens of them burst into the foyer, where police formed a cordon to stop them going upstairs, BBC footage showed. Later, they were banging angrily on the glass doors.

Protesters accused authorities of suppressing the true death toll, an idea that has been spread on social media as well as alternative news sites. Although the police and fire service expect the number to rise significantly, they are following their usual procedure of only raising it as they confirm deaths. Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said Thursday of the toll, "I'd like to hope that it isn't going to be triple figures."

Demonstrators were also marching outside Parliament chanting, "May must go." The small protest made its way to Downing Street, May's official residence, where they met a large police presence. They then moved up to Trafalgar Square, and mingled with tourists and office workers drinking in the sunshine outside pubs.

Kate Taylor, who lives about three miles from the tower, said she joined the protest to show solidarity with the victims, and said she agreed with the shouts of "Tories out."

"It's a terrible tragedy for which no one is taking responsibility," she said.

It's a politically delicate time for May, who faced criticism over her visit to the site on Thursday. She was pictured speaking to emergency workers, but was kept away from the public -- with officials citing security concerns and suggesting she didn't want to distract police and others from their work.

It was a direct contrast with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who met with members of the public and was pictured hugging tearful relatives of victims near the charred building.

Corbyn ran a campaign promising to end austerity in the recent general election in which May's Conservatives lost their parliamentary majority. The premier must now demonstrate her leadership in front of a national tragedy that has exposed anger at the country's social divisions and years of budget cuts under her Tory party's government.

The government also faced questions about failing to apply the lessons from a similar fire in 2009. Housing Minister Alok Sharma told lawmakers on Thursday that a consultation document was close to completion when the general election was called, and it would now be revised to reflect on the Grenfell Tower fire.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan increased the pressure on May by writing an open letter to her, demanding a series of assurances. "I spent several hours yesterday talking to local residents around Grenfell Tower," he wrote. "These were difficult conversations with a tight-knit community that is understandably distraught, frustrated and increasingly angry. They feel the government and local council haven't done enough to help them."

In an interview with Sky News, May said work is starting to check on the safety of similar buildings across the country, and that the public inquiry would determine who was responsible for the disaster.

Earlier, Queen Elizabeth II visited a relief center for victims, and spoke to residents and members of the emergency services. But there was a sense, from conversations with locals, that people have had enough with the VIP visits -- even when it is the queen.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

Also read: 3 Dead, 5 Injured After Rival Gangs Open Fire In North Delhi's Burari


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