Grenfell survivors face months of recovery, doctors warn
Some patients being treated in hospital following the Grenfell Tower disaster – in which 79 people died or are missing, presumed to have died – face a long recovery of weeks, possibly months, doctors treating them have said.
Duncan Bew, clinical director of the major trauma centre at King’s College hospital, said a number were being kept unconscious to help them recover from the major effects of smoke inhalation.
Fourteen people are still in London hospitals, of whom eight remain in critical care, five at King’s College hospital.
Of those who died, five have so far been formally identified. The most recent is Khadija Khalloufi, 52, who lived on the 17th floor with her husband, Sabah Abdullah, a retired lecturer, who had grabbed her hand as they fled but lost his grip in the stampede to escape. Others formally identified are Syrian refugee and engineering student Mohammad Alhajali, 23, artist and photographer Khadija Saye, 24, Abufars Ibrahim, 39, and retired lorry driver Anthony Disson, 65.
Omar Belkadi, missing with his wife, Farah Hamdan, and their six-month-old daughter Leena Belkadi, is also among those to have died, his brother-in-law Ahmed told the Guardian. He said: “Omar was found with ID on his body, but they still haven’t told us where or when he was found or where he was taken to.”
He added: “We want to know what happened to Farah and baby Leena. We want to have a proper farewell and we want to show our last respects. The sooner the bodies are released, the better.”
The couple’s two other daughters were found in hospital. Ahmed said they had been told by residents that Omar, from a town near Tangiers, had been seen outside the building after the fire started, and he presumed that he taken taken his two young daughters down from the 20th floor, then went back to try to help his wife and other child.
The family of Isaac Shawo, aged five, who reportedly became separated from his family in the chaos, confirmed to the BBC that he had died in the fire. He was a pupil at Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic primary school, and lived with his parents, Genet Shawo and Paulos Petakle, and brother Luca, aged three.
King’s College hospital, which declared a major incident when it became aware of the fire in the 24-storey high-rise block, had potentially been expecting “hundreds” of patients, Bew told the Press Association. But staff became saddened when so few arrived, which meant many more were still trapped inside.
“We were ready to receive many more casualties. We knew there were many more people in the building. As time went on and we realised that we weren’t going to receive those casualties, it was very sad,” he said. Most of those arriving were conscious, and almost all were suffering the effects of smoke inhalation, with very few having burns.
“It may take weeks and months for some patients to recover physically. In terms of psychological impact, it may take longer,” said Bew. He warned that some patients could experience survivors’ guilt, and staff could also experience something similar.
The search and recovery operation in the block, which housed between 400 and 600 residents in 120 flats, is expected to take weeks. Commander Stuart Cundy, of the Metropolitan police, has said the scale of the criminal investigation is “truly, truly significant” and would be “exhaustive”.
As the painstaking work continues, other councils are reviewing fire safety procedures in residential blocks. Croydon council said it would install automatic fire sprinklers in 25 blocks of more than 10 storeys. It has also begun a review of 16 blocks over six storeys that have cladding, and 23 without cladding. The review should be concluded by the weekend.
Kensington and Chelsea council has denied reports that those affected who were refusing rehousing away from the area would be declared “intentionally homeless”, thus relieving the council of responsibility to rehouse them. A council spokesman said: “This is not true. Everyone is being offered temporary accommodation pending a permanent rehousing offer. Nobody has been offered accommodation outside of central London and we are aiming to place people as locally as possible.”
Labour, meanwhile, has demanded answers from the government after leaked letters appeared to show that ministers were repeatedly warned in 2014 that fire regulations were not keeping people safe in high-rise blocks.
The shadow housing secretary, John Healey, has written to the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, demanding a formal response after the BBC’s Panorama programme said the dozen letters, sent by the all-party parliamentary fire and safety rescue group following the 2009 Lakanal House fire in Southwark which killed six people, warned those living in high-rises were “at risk”.
More than £333,000 of the £5m government emergency fund has been given so far to families affected.
Fundraising by others is continuing. West End stars, including some from Dreamgirls, Wicked and Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, will take part in a benefit concert at Trafalgar Studios 1 on 25 June, with proceeds being donated to the Grenfell Tower Fire Fund. On 27 June, comedians including Michael McIntyre, Jo Brand and Katherine Ryan will take part in A Night of Comedy at the Eventim Apollo.
Tennis star Andy Murray reportedly plans to donate his prize money from the Aegon Championships – which will be more than £346,000 if he wins the Queen’s Club tournament. Singer Adele has lent her support to the firefighters by popping in to a Chelsea fire station “for a cup of tea and a cuddle” . She also paid a low-key visit the scene of the tower block, joining a crowd that turned out in support following the blaze.