London fire death toll mounts to 17

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PV International Desk : Damage is seen to a tower block which was destroyed in a fire disaster, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 15, 2017. Reuters

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

Smoke was still wafting out of the blackened shell of the Grenfell Tower on Thursday where specialist search teams faced hazardous conditions as they scoured the wreck, with external cladding still falling from the building.

Fire engulfed the social housing block, where as many as 600 people lived in more than 120 apartments, in the early hours of Wednesday, turning it into a flaming torch in minutes.

“Sadly I can confirm that the number of people that have died is now 17,” London police commander Stuart Cundy told reporters.

He said that number was expected to rise and firefighters have said they did not expect to find any more survivors after rescuing 65. Thirty-seven people remained in hospital, with 17 of them in critical care.