Seventy one people died after a huge fire engulfed Grenfell Tower – a 27-storey tower block in West London. Some residents of the north Kensington building escaped as the fire took hold on 14 June, while others were trapped inside.
Emergency services were called to the fire at the block of flats in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea just before 01:00 BST on Wednesday 14 June. It is believed to have started on the fourth floor and spread quickly.
A total of 65 people were rescued from the building by firefighters. Some residents appear to have moved up the building to escape the flames, only to become trapped in flats of friends and neighbours on the upper floors. Twenty one people died on the top floor of the tower block.
The blaze was not brought under control until 01:14 BST on Thursday – 24 hours later.
The tower, part of the Lancaster West Estate, a social housing complex of almost 1,000 homes in West London, was left extensively damaged.
All four facades were affected and 22 apartments in nearby Grenfell Walk were also destroyed, the council said.
Specially trained officers from the Met, City of London Police and British Transport Police have been involved in the search and recovery operation, thoroughly searching every single flat on every single floor.
Officers have examined 15.5 tonnes of debris on each floor, helped by forensic anthropologists, archaeologists and forensic dentists or odontologists.
A public inquiry, ordered by Prime Minister Theresa May, is under way.
Lawyers representing survivors and relatives of the victims began giving evidence to the public inquiry into the tragedy on Monday 11 December.
The Metropolitan Police are looking into offences including manslaughter, corporate manslaughter, misconduct in public office and breaches of fire safety regulations in relation to the fire, the inquiry has been told.
The force has already gathered 31 million documents and 2,500 physical exhibits. Some 1,144 witnesses have given statements and 383 companies are part of the investigation.
The public inquiry plans to deliver an interim report into the fire’s causes and the emergency response by next autumn.
There are many victims
Seventy one victims of the Grenfell Tower fire have been formally identified and police believe that all those who died have now been recovered.
The victims include baby Logan Gomes, who was stillborn in hospital on 14 June, the day the 24-storey blaze broke out.
The final two victims formally identified were Victoria King and her daughter Alexandra Atala.
The Met Police said they were providing “every support we can” to the bereaved.
The tower was built in the 1970s, but recently renovated
Grenfell Tower was built in 1974 by Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council.
An £8.6m refurbishment – part of a wider transformation of the estate – was completed by Rydon Construction in May last year. Work included new exterior cladding, replacement windows and a communal heating system.
The bottom four floors were also remodelled, creating seven additional homes and improvements to communal facilities.
There are now 129 flats across 21 residential floors and three levels of mixed use.
Newly-installed cladding is being scrutinised
Fire safety experts have pointed to cladding on the building as a possible reason the blaze spread so quickly.
Footage has shown the fire travelling up one side of the building, before engulfing the entire block.
New cladding was fitted as part of a £8.6m refurbishment of the tower, completed in May last year.
The cladding had a metal outer coating and an expanded foam interior. This polyethylene – or plastic – core is less fireproof than other alternatives.
However, even this type of cladding – when properly fitted and with its polyethylene insulation expertly encapsulated – should resist fire, the Fire Protection Association (FPA), the UK’s national fire safety organisation, said.
Some exterior cladding can create cavities which, in some cases, can cause what’s known as “a chimney effect”, drawing flames up the cavity if there are no fire barriers.
Ray Bailey, managing director at Harley Facades Limited, which installed the cladding, said: “At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.”
Rydon, the contractor responsible for the renovation of the tower, said its work “met all required building control, fire regulation, and health and safety standards”.
It later issued a new statement, removing the previous mention of the building meeting fire regulation standards, instead saying the project met “all required building regulations”.
The tower is in an area with a big gap between rich and poor
In the aftermath of the fire, residents told the BBC how they felt ignored by the authorities and pushed out by affluent outsiders.
Anger over the response to the disaster has led many residents to protest and to call for greater representation at the ongoing public enquiry.
Michael Mansfield QC, representing some of the 71 victims, said there was a feeling that “those people most affected have not been included” in the process.
Kensington and Chelsea is one of the richest areas in the country.
The average salary is £123,000: the highest in the UK. But the median average – the midpoint of all salaries in the area – is £32,700.
No other local authority in the country has such a large gap between these two averages, pointing to a huge contrast between high and low earners.
There is a similarly large gap when measuring the total income for people in the area. The average is £158,000, but the median is £38,700. Again, no other local authority in the UK reports such a difference.