Search for Thai family after London tower block inferno

THE THAI EMBASSY in London is attempting to contact a Thai family who were living in the fire-ravaged Grenfell Tower block in west London.

While the death toll is still rising, authorities confirmed yesterday that 17 people had been confirmed dead in the inferno while saying that "sadly the number will increase" as they no longer expected to find anyone alive in the unstable, burned-out high rise. Dozens of residents were reported missing.

The fire broke out at the 24-storey public housing tower block in a working-class area of the capital on Wednesday.

The tower was home to about 600 people, including at least three Thai families, according to Thai officials and other Thais in London.

The Thai Embassy managed to contact two of the families but was still trying to contact the third, according to the Foreign Ministry's spokesperson Busadee Santipitaks. The total number of Thais in the tower was unclear.

Photo: Facebook/Amthaipaper

Waewta Suparerksanon, 62, told the BBC Thai service that she and four other members of her family escaped from the inferno at about 4am local time. She said she had lived on the 10th floor of the building for 31 years.

Waewta said she was watching television at around 1am when she heard about the fire.

Her younger sister phoned the emergency services number and was told to remain in the flat. "Luckily we didn't believe [the phone operator] and got out quickly," Waewta said, noting that it took a while for rescuers to reach them. Firefighters guided residents out via a fire escape.

The embassy yesterday encouraged Thai citizens in London to stay away from the scene and monitor updates issued by local authorities. Anyone in need of assistance or urgent information can call the embassy at 079 1865 1720.

Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy said in a televised statement yesterday: "Sadly I can confirm that the number of people that has died is now 17.

"We do believe that the number will sadly increase," he said.

London Fire Brigade chief Dany Cotton said firefighters were not able to access all the apartments in the tower because of structural safety concerns. She said they had only managed to search about half of the building "in detail".

She also said sniffer dogs were being used to locate bodies. "I anticipate London Fire Brigade will be on scene here for many days to come," she said.

"Tragically now we are not expecting to find anyone else alive."

Built in 1974, an 8.7-million-pound (S$15 million) refurbishment of the tower was completed last year and included new windows and a heating system. There has been speculation that the refurbishment might have been linked to the fire.

on SPH Brightcove

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