A survivors’ group has welcomed a report on the Grenfell Tower fire, calling for the government to treat its response as “a national emergency”.
The report, published on Wednesday, followed the first phase of an inquiry, looking at what happened on the night of 14 June 2017, when 72 people died.
It was critical of the London Fire Brigade’s response and said the tower did not meet building regulations.
The LFB said it was “disappointed” by some of the criticism of individuals.
Campaign group Grenfell United said the report showed “the immediate and real dangers” of “highly combustible cladding and insulation”.
“Lives are at risk and the government need to treat this as a national emergency,” the group said.
The report made 46 recommendations, including improvements in training for fire brigade staff and the development of national guidelines for evacuating high-rise buildings.
Grenfell United called for the recommendations to be implemented in full, saying they would save lives.
The report condemned the LFB for “serious shortcomings” and systemic failures in its response to the fire.
Inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick said the absence of a plan to evacuate the tower was a “major omission” by the LFB and more lives could have been saved had the “stay-put” policy been abandoned sooner.
Grenfell United responded: “It is heartbreaking to read that more of our loved ones could have been saved that night if the building was evacuated earlier.”
At an emotional press conference, relatives of 20 victims of the fire called for an overhaul of the LFB, saying its leadership should resign and even face prosecution.
Nazanin Aghlani, who lost two family members in the fire, said some firefighters displayed a “serious lack of common sense” and failed to see “what was so vivid in front of them”.
“If a fire happened tonight the same thing would happen again,” she said.
‘Too little too late’
The report said evidence from London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton that she would not have changed anything about the brigade’s response was “insensitive”.
Ms Cotton said many of the recommendations were welcome and would be “carefully considered”.
She expressed her “deepest sorrow at not being able to save all those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire”.
She added: “We welcome the chairman’s recognition of the courage, commitment and bravery of firefighters on the night, but we are disappointed at some of the criticism of individual staff members who were placed in completely unprecedented circumstances and faced the most unimaginable conditions while trying to save the lives of others.”
However, Natasha Elcock, chairwoman of Grenfell United who was rescued with her six-year-old daughter from the 11th floor, said Dany Cotton’s statement was “too little too late”.
“She stood up in the inquiry, in a room full of bereaved and survivors and said there’s nothing she would do to change that night,” she told the BBC.
“If she’d expressed that sorrow that day in that room, that potentially would have washed with us today.”
Grenfell United expressed concern at the report’s finding that the LFB were “at risk of not learning the lessons from Grenfell”, adding that firefighters were “let down by their training, procedures, equipment and leadership”.
Other issues highlighted in the report included:
- A lack of training in how to “recognise the need for an evacuation or how to organise one”
- Incident commanders “of relatively junior rank” being unable to change strategy
- Control room officers lacking training on when to advise callers to evacuate
- An assumption that crews would reach callers, resulting in “assurances which were not well founded”
- Communication between the control room and those on the ground being “improvised, uncertain and prone to error”
- A lack of an organised way to share information within the control room, meaning officers had “no overall picture of the speed or pattern of fire spread”
In the House of Commons, MPs held a minutes’ silence to remember victims of the fire, before a debate on the inquiry.
Boris Johnson told MPs that survivors and the bereaved had been “overlooked and ignored” before the fire and “shamefully failed” afterwards.
The second phase of the inquiry will focus on wider circumstances of the fire, including the design of the building.
While this was not the focus of the first phase, the report found there was “compelling evidence” external walls of the building failed to comply with building regulations and “actively promoted” the spread of fire.
It said the principal reason the flames shot up the building so fiercely was the combustible aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding with polyethylene cores which acted as a “source of fuel”.
Grenfell United said the second phase of the inquiry “must now focus on where responsibility for the devastating refurbishment [of the building] lies”, with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the tenant management organisation and the companies involved facing “serious questions”.
League One side AFC Wimbledon have appointed caretaker boss Glyn Hodges as their new permanent manager.
The ex-Wales midfielder, 56, has been in charge since Wally Downes was suspended by the club last month, after being charged by the Football Association over bets placed on games.
Downes left Wimbledon on Sunday, two days after being given a four-week FA suspension for admitting the charge.
Former Wimbledon player Hodges had been assistant to Downes at Kingsmeadow.
More to follow.
A 15-year-old has been charged with conspiring to murder a schoolboy who was stabbed to death in the street.
Baptista Adjei, also 15, from North Woolwich, was attacked on Stratford Broadway, east London, on 10 October.
Police have charged another 15-year-old boy with murder, GBH and two counts of possessing an offensive weapon.
The latest suspect will appear at Stratford Youth Court later, Scotland Yard said.
Some 50 households had to stay in emergency accommodation overnight after a burst water main flooded homes in north London.
About 250 properties including two schools were affected after a 36-inch (91cm) water pipe fractured in Finsbury Park before 08:00 BST on Tuesday.
One man was rescued from a basement while others had to be led to safety.
Thames Water said a temporary fix had been put in place and all flood water had been pumped away.
The water main burst at the junction of Queens Drive and Princess Crescent causing an area measuring about 600m x 200m (1,900ft x 650ft) to be flooded to a depth of about 1m (3ft).
About 12 fire engines and 80 firefighters were deployed to help rescue people and pump water away, while postcode areas N1, N4, N5, N7 and N19 were left with no water or low water pressure.
Tanja Schnitzer, who lives in a basement flat on Queens Drive, said rooms in the property had filled up with water “within half an hour from floor to ceiling”.
“It’s devastating. We’ve pretty much lost everything,” she said.
Water supplies for most properties in the area have been restored but Thames Water said air locks in the system meant some residents were still experiencing problems.
A spokesman for the firm said bottled water and plumbers were on standby in case of issues while engineers would finish fixing the mains during the day.
Woodberry Down Primary School remains shut but Parkwood Primary School has reopened.
Queens Drive, between Brownswood Road and Seven Sisters Road, has been closed to traffic.
Banksy has opened a “pop-up” shop in south London featuring the stab vest he designed for Stormzy’s headline act at the Glastonbury Festival.
A Tony the Tiger rug and a cradle surrounded by CCTV cameras are also on show as part of the venture, at a disused retail outlet in Croydon.
“I’m opening a shop today,” the artist said on Instagram. “Although the doors don’t actually open.”
A man stabbed to death at a London Underground station was an Arsenal fan on his way to a match, the BBC has been told.
Tashan Daniel, 20, was killed in an “unprovoked attack” on the platform at Hillingdon station on Tuesday.
He had been heading to the Emirates Stadium to see the Gunners face Nottingham Forest in the third round of the Carabao Cup, a source said.
It is the third murder investigation on the Tube network this year.
No arrests have been made over the attack, which Det Supt Gary Richardson described as “a shocking act of violence”.
He said the British Transport Police (BTP) investigation was in its “early stages”.
“We believe a group of young men were involved in an altercation on the platform before one of the men received a fatal stab wound,” he said.
Police and paramedics were called to the station in west London at 15:57 BST.
An air ambulance was also sent to Hillingdon, but Mr Daniel was pronounced dead at the scene.
Danielle Foster, who was driving past Hillingdon station at the time of the stabbing, said upon “hearing so many sirens, I knew something terrible had happened”.
“Lots of people were being turned away from the station as it had been closed,” she said, adding: “Then the police helicopter began circling the scene.”
Hillingdon station was closed by Transport for London (TfL) while police searched the area.
The station was closed for the rest of Tuesday evening and reopened at 05:45 this morning.
So far in 2019 more than 100 murder investigations have been launched across London by the Metropolitan Police and BTP.
Boris Johnson is to call for the release of jailed British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe when he meets Iran’s president later.
The prime minister will meet Hassan Rouhani at a UN summit in New York, hours after blaming Iran for attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities.
It comes amid calls for him to take a tougher line with Tehran over its detention of dual nationals.
Mrs Zhagari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran since April 2016.
The 40-year-old was jailed for five years in 2016 after being convicted of spying, which she denies.
On his flight to New York on Sunday, Mr Johnson told reporters: “I will not only be discussing Iran’s actions in the region, but also the need to release not just Nazanin but others who in our view are being illegally and unfairly held in Tehran.”
Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested Mr Johnson should form a new coalition of allies at the UN to call out Iran for its “diplomatic hostage taking”.
And Mrs Zhagari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said the prime minister must tell his Iranian counterpart “enough is enough” and secure his wife’s release.
“I don’t mind how he does that, but this has gone on long enough,” he said.
“Nazanin is at the end of her tether. We have to be clear with Iran that it’s not OK to conduct hostage diplomacy.”
Mr Hunt is supporting Mr Ratcliffe’s move to launch a new campaign group made up of other families of different nationalities with loved ones held in Tehran.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it should be a priority to ensure the price of taking hostages is “too high” for Iran.
“Iran is one of the few countries in the world that seeks to settle disputes by taking hostages,” he said.
He said it is thought other countries’ citizens have been taken hostage in Iran and only by working together can countries find a solution.
“When Europe and the US go separate ways on Iran it doesn’t work,” he said.
Mr Ratcliffe said efforts by Mr Johnson to get his wife released could make amends for comments he made as foreign secretary in 2017, when he said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran teaching journalism.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family has always insisted she was on holiday in Iran when she was arrested – and the UK government later clarified it had “no doubt” this was the case.
A number of people with dual Iranian and foreign nationality have been detained in Iran in recent years.
In August, a spokesman for Iran’s judiciary said a British-Iranian dual national, Anousheh Ashouri, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison by a court in Tehran after being convicted of spying for Israel.
British-Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a Middle East politics specialist at Melbourne University, is being held on charges that remain unclear, according to the Australian government.
Australians Mark Firkin and Jolie King, who also holds a UK passport – are also being detained in Iran.
Earlier this year, the UK foreign office warned all dual nationals against travelling to Iran because of the risk of arbitrary detention.
Tensions between the UK and Iran have worsened in recent months following a row over the seizure of oil tankers in the Gulf.
The meeting between Mr Johnson and Mr Rouhani comes after the UK, France and Germany agreed on Monday that Iran was responsible for the attack on Saudi oil facilities last weekend.
Saudi Arabia has also accused Iran of carrying out the 14 September attacks, in which 18 drones and seven cruise missiles hit an oil field and processing facility.
However, Iran has denied responsibility, accusing the UK, France and Germany of “parroting absurd US claims”.
BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale said slowly and cautiously, some diplomatic pressure was being applied on Iran.
But he added there was little sign Iran was ready to make any diplomatic concessions, not least while Europe and the US appeared uncertain over how to respond to the Saudi attacks.
The government is ready to fly holidaymakers back to the UK if tour operator Thomas Cook collapses, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said.
Mr Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show contingency planning was in place to make sure no-one would be stranded.
But he dampened hopes of a government rescue bid for the firm.
Ministers did not “systematically step in” when businesses went under unless there was “a good strategic national interest”, he said.
Mr Raab said he did not want to undermine the rescue talks that Thomas Cook is currently conducting with its biggest shareholder and creditors at City law firm Slaughter & May.
The tour operator could fall into administration within days unless it finds £200m in extra funds.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) union, which represents Thomas Cook staff, is urging the government to step in with a bail out amid fears the company’s collapse could leave about 150,000 British tourists stranded.
Katie Prescott, business correspondent
This meeting is crucial for Thomas Cook’s survival.
If there is no agreement, then the decision to wind up the company will be taken at a Board meeting this evening. It’s likely (looking at the precedent of Monarch’s collapse) that any announcement about that will be made late at night, once all planes are on the ground. But the company doesn’t have to announce anything until the markets open at 07:00 BST on Monday.
It’s low season at the moment, the time of year when Thomas Cook has to pay its suppliers for the busy summer season just gone. Hoteliers are paid on 60 to 90-day terms, once travellers have already taken their holidays. The nightmare scenario is that hoteliers who don’t think they will get paid might turn out the people staying with them.
However, it is worth re-stating that the company is still trading. People are still holidaying with Thomas Cook. And while we can assume the company is reining back marketing activity around last-minute deals and offers, until any announcement is made, it is business as usual.
The foreign secretary said he did not want talk of contingency planning to become “a self-fulfilling prophecy”.
But he told the BBC the government had learned lessons from the collapse of the Monarch airline in 2017. The UK’s consular authorities abroad were ready to assist, he said.
A government spokesperson said: “We recognise it’s a worrying time for holidaymakers and employees.
“The financial circumstances of individual businesses are a commercial matter, but the government and the Civil Aviation Authority are monitoring the situation closely.”
‘Being held hostage’
Meanwhile, holidaymakers staying at a hotel in Tunisia owed money by Thomas Cook have reportedly been prevented from leaving the resort until it has been paid.
Guests at the Les Orangers beach resort in the town of Hammamet, near Tunis, said the hotel was refusing to let them leave because of concerns about Thomas Cook’s future.
Customers have reported that the hotel is asking visitors to pay extra money amid fears it will not be paid what it is owed by the tour operator for bookings.
Ryan Farmer, from Leicestershire, told BBC Radio 5 Live the hotel demanded all guests who were due to leave go to reception “to pay additional fees, obviously because of the situation with Thomas Cook”.
Security guards closed the hotel’s gates as guests refused to pay the extra fee, Mr Farmer claims.
He told the Stephen Nolan show: “I’d describe it as exactly the same as being held hostage.”
Thomas Cook customers have been reminded on social media that they have Atol protection – a fund paid for through industry levies – “in the event that Thomas Cook goes into administration”.
The travel firm also reassured customers on Saturday night that flights continue to operate as normal.
One of the world’s largest travel companies, Thomas Cook was founded in 1841 to operate temperance day trips, and now has annual sales of £9bn.
It employs 22,000 staff, 9,000 of whom are in the UK, and serves 19 million customers a year in 16 different countries.
There are currently 600,000 Thomas Cook customers on holiday, of which 150,000 to 160,000 are British.
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes has called on Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom to help Thomas Cook “no matter what”, saying it would save thousands of jobs.
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said “the government must consider stepping in and taking an equity stake to avoid this crisis”.
Chloe Hardy from Leicestershire is due to get married in Zante in October and booked the wedding package with Thomas Cook back in June 2018.
Chloe and her fiance will also have 33 family members flying out, with their trips costing more than £33,000 in total.
With the big day looming, Chloe is frustrated by Thomas Cook’s handling of their booking.
“We are unsure if we will be able to fly… This is causing great concern, worry and stress to all of us involved.”
Thomas Cook’s financial difficulties have mounted over the past year, culminating with the agreement in August of a rescue deal led by its biggest shareholder Fosun.
In July, it produced a business plan saying that it needed £900m in refinancing, up from a previous estimate of £150m. The £900m would come from Fosun, the group of creditors and some other investors.
The group of lenders then commissioned an independent investigation. Its financial advisers said Thomas Cook would require an additional £200m on top of the £900m already required, which would bring the total refinancing needed up to £1.1bn.
Thomas Cook succeeded in finding a backer to provide the additional £200m, but the BBC understands it has since pulled out.
The firm has blamed a series of problems for its profit warnings, including political unrest in holiday destinations such as Turkey, last summer’s prolonged heatwave and customers delaying booking holidays because of Brexit.
What are your rights?
If you are on a package holiday you are covered by the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence scheme (Atol).
The scheme will pay for your accommodation abroad, although you may have to move to a different hotel or apartment.
Atol will also pay to have you brought home if the airline is no longer operating.
If you have holiday booked in the future you will also be refunded by the scheme.
If you have booked a flight-only deal you will need to apply to your travel insurance company or credit card and debit card provider to seek a refund.
When Monarch Airlines collapsed in 2017, the government organised to bring home all the stranded passengers, whether they were covered by Atol or not.
Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:
A man accused of strangling his ex-girlfriend and burying her in her garden has told a court they had split up over the death of their pet dog.
French film producer Laureline Garcia-Bertaux, 34, was discovered in a shallow grave at her home in Kew, south-west London, on 5 March.
Kirill Belorusov told the Old Bailey they separated a week after their Rottweiler was put down, and he had owed her nothing at the time.
The 32-year-old denies murder.
The court previously heard Mr Belorusov owed the victim thousands of pounds, and he had tricked his way into her home where he strangled her.
Giving evidence, he said he moved to London in 2009 and began dating Ms Garcia-Bertaux after meeting her at a gig.
“We spent the whole of the night walking and walking and walking, and in the morning I decided to get to her place and she invited me over. She said ‘yes’ and I never left,” he said.
Speaking about their relationship, Russian national Mr Belorusov said they argued “like any couple” over food and money “but everything was OK”.
He said they had separated in 2016 after “a slow build-up over years” and at the time their dog Jazz was “the only thing connecting us”.
The jury has heard Mr Belorusov avoided paying back money he owed to Ms Garcia-Bertaux by pretending to have cancer and there was no record of him receiving treatment at hospitals in London.
However, he insisted he had suffered from cancer with “pancreatic complications” and went on drug trials in Sussex, Kent and Ipswich, the court has heard.
The trial continues.
About 30 residents have been evacuated and part of a building has been destroyed following a suspected explosion.
London Fire Brigade said it was called to a fire after the suspected blast on High Street in Hampton Hill, south-west London, on Tuesday night.
On social media, one witness described hearing a “boom” before the blaze. No was injured.
Road closures remain in place at the scene, Richmond Council said.