London tower block inferno: What we know

Public anger was mounting as residents and neighbors demanded answers for how the blaze spread so quickly amid reports that contractors installed a cheaper, less flame-resistant type of exterior paneling in a renovation of the Grenfell Tower that ended in May 2016.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday promised a public inquiry into a fire that gutted a 24-story apartment block killing at least 17 people, as the government faced questions about how such a devastating blaze could have occurred.

She said her visits to London and Manchester — the latter the site of a terror attack last month – have highlighted the people who offer comfort and support those affected. British media have reported that contractors installed a cheaper, less flame-resistant type of exterior paneling on the 24-story tower in a renovation that was completed just a year ago.

“There is nothing to suggest at this time that the fire was started deliberately”, he added.

Fire engulfed the social housing block, where as many as 600 people lived in more than 120 apartments. It includes 30 deaths that already have been confirmed, and reports of people who are missing and presumed to have been killed.

The meeting is unlikely to quell complaints that May has been slow to reach out to fire survivors, despite her announcement of a $6.4 million emergency fund to help the displaced families.

She has promised to set up a public inquiry and pledged STG5 million ($A8.9 million) to help the victims.

“(This aims) to give the victims the immediate support they need to care for themselves and for loved ones”, May said.

A second protest began later at Britain’s Home Office, which oversees fire prevention and policing nationally.

Using drones and sniffer dogs, firefighters continued to search the burned-out housing block that looms over the low-income community in west London.

– How did the fire spread so fast?

Police Commander Stuart Cundy said the number of 58 is based on reports from the public and may rise.

Police have opened a criminal investigation into the circumstances of the blaze.

The inquiry into the Grenfell fire will nearly certainly not be completed and published for several years.

Newly-appointed Indian-origin housing minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government, Alok Sharma, said, “Every single family will be rehoused in the local area”.

Aluminum composite panels essentially consist of two thin layers of aluminum sandwiched around a lightweight insulating material.

The Times newspaper reported that the company that manufactured the cladding also made fire-resistant models that cost fractionally more than the standard version.

But Newport City Homes, which manages three 11-storey towers in the Gaer, St Julians and Ringland areas of Newport, has assured residents the cladding used on its buildings is not the same as that used in London, and is non-flammable.

The firm said the cladding panels, which are not manufactured by Harley Facades, are a commonly used product in the refurbishment industry.

“In the United States, you can’t build a structure taller than 40 feet without testing the whole system in a fully-rigged environment”.

Meanwhile, authorities in the United Kingdom investigating the Grenfell Tower inferno should consider the design of the building’s entire exterior refurbishment rather than individual components, a company said.