The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been condemned for “serious shortcomings” and systemic failures in its response to the Grenfell Tower fire, in a report after the first phase of an inquiry.
Fewer people would have died in the 2017 fire if the LFB had taken certain actions earlier, the report by inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick said.
The head of the Fire Brigades Union said the inquiry was “back to front”.
The BBC has seen sections of the report ahead of Wednesday’s publication.
The document follows the first phase of the inquiry, which looked at what happened on the night that 72 people died in the tower block fire on 14 June 2017.
The second phase will focus on wider circumstances of the fire, including the design of the building.
General secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Matt Wrack, said: “The truth is that the fire spread the way it did because it was wrapped in flammable cladding. The firefighters turned up after that had happened, after the building had already been turned, in reality, into a death trap.
“Firefighters’ actions on the night, which were remarkable in the circumstances, are now being scrutinised. Nobody is trying to avoid scrutiny, but we think that the ordering of the inquiry is completely back to front.”
The council, the tower’s tenant management organisation, the police and the fire service were all questioned during the inquiry’s first phase.
The inquiry has criticised the Daily Telegraph, which first published leaked details of the report, and other media which followed suit. A spokeswoman said publication had deprived “those most affected by the fire – the bereaved, survivors and residents – of the opportunity to read the report at their own pace”.
Sir Martin’s report praised the courage of firefighters on the night.
But it found many “institutional” failures that meant the LFB’s planning and preparation for the incident was “gravely inadequate”.
For example, Sir Martin said control room staff who fielded 999 calls “undoubtedly saved lives” but “a close examination” of operations revealed “shortcomings in practice, policy and training”.
He said staff that night were in an “invidious” position when they were outnumbered by 999 calls.
“Supervisors were under the most enormous pressure, but the LFB had not provided its senior control room staff with appropriate training on how to manage a large-scale incident with a large number of FSG [Fire Survival Guidance] calls,” he said.
“Mistakes made in responding to the Lakanal House fire were repeated,” he added – referring to a fire in Camberwell, south London, in 2009, which killed three women and three children.
By Lucy Manning, special correspondent
This report could not be more critical of the London Fire Brigade.
The Grenfell families wanted this level of criticism, especially those whose relatives died when they were told for nearly two hours to stay put in the building as it was covered in flames.
But there is also some frustration that this first part of the inquiry wasn’t about those who made the cladding and oversaw the refurbishment of Grenfell.
That will only happen in the second phase of the inquiry next year and then they’ve got even longer to wait for the police investigation to finish.
So they are seeing some blame apportioned and they hope they will eventually see justice but the Grenfell survivors will always suffer the loss and grief and ask the question how did 72 people die in what was supposed to be the safety of their homes?
Sir Martin also criticised the LFB for following a “stay put” strategy, where firefighters and 999 operators told residents to stay in their flats for nearly two hours after the blaze broke out.
The strategy was rescinded at 02:47 BST, the report said. Sir Martin wrote: “That decision could and should have been made between 01:30 and 01:50 and would be likely to have resulted in fewer fatalities.”
Firefighters who attended the fire did not have training on how best to combat a cladding fire, the report added.
Four members of the first crews to have fought the blaze had 52 years of combined experience. However, they had not received any training on the risks posed by exterior cladding or the techniques to be deployed in fighting fires involving cladding, the report found.
Sir Martin said the “principal” reason the fire spread so quickly “up, down and around the building was the presence of the aluminium composite material (ACM) rainscreen panels with polyethylene cores, which acted as a source of fuel”.
The report also said evidence given by the LFB’s commissioner, Dany Cotton, suggested lessons from the fire might be missed.
Sir Martin wrote: “Quite apart from its remarkable insensitivity to the families of the deceased and to those who escaped from their burning homes with their lives, the Commissioner’s evidence that she would not change anything about the response of the LFB on the night, even with the benefit of hindsight, only serves to demonstrate that the LFB is an institution at risk of not learning the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire.”
A spokesperson for the LFB said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the report’s findings before they were officially released on Wednesday.
Speaking on Monday, Sir Martin said the report was long and detailed.
He stressed that readers of the report “should understand as clearly as possible the terrifying conditions faced by those who were in the building, at the time”.
The cause of the fire was found by the report to be “an electrical fault in the large fridge freezer in the kitchen” in a fourth-floor flat.
“It occurred without any fault on the part of the tenant… and I am pleased to clear him of any blame, given that some people have unfairly accused him of having some responsibility for what happened,” Sir Martin said.
- Additional reporting by Vinnie O’Dowd.
About 15,000 homes near the River Thames could be protected from flooding by 2027 after a flood defence scheme was given a £270m funding boost.
The scheme will protect homes and businesses between Datchet, Berkshire, through Surrey to Teddington.
The Environment Agency said it could now afford to build the defences thanks to funding from Surrey County Council.
In 2014, about 2,000 people were flooded out of their homes in Chertsey, Egham, Sunbury, Staines and Weybridge.
Central government, local authorities and other partners including Thames Water will all contribute to the scheme.
Dave Bedlington, from the Environment Agency, said the new funding from Surrey County Council meant the scheme could now be shown to be affordable.
If the defences were not built, flooding such as that seen in 2014 would become more frequent, according to Mr Bedlington.
“If everything goes with a fair wind we’d being submitting our planning application in two years’ time. Because of the scale, that’s likely to take a two-year inquiry,” he said.
If given the go-ahead, construction could start in 2023 and it could be operational in 2027, he added.
The Environment Agency said three new channels alongside the River Thames would reduce the flood risk at Datchet, Wraysbury, Egham, Staines, Chertsey, Shepperton, Weybridge, Sunbury, Moseley, Thames Ditton, Kingston and Teddington, affecting 15,000 homes and 2,400 businesses.
The plans also include 260 acres (106 hectares) of new public open space and the creation of 615 acres (250 hectares) of new wildlife habitat, a spokesman said.
Tim Oliver, leader of Surrey County Council, said: “The floods in 2014 were devastating and ever since then it’s been clear we need to do all we can to make sure our residents and their properties are protected from such risks in the future.”
|Rugby World Cup quarter-final|
|Venue: Oita Stadium Date: Saturday, 19 October Kick-off: 08:15 BST|
|Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and online with text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.|
England’s preparations for their World Cup quarter-final against Australia have been given a significant boost with the news that Billy Vunipola is now “very likely” to be fit to start.
The number eight injured his ankle against Argentina 10 days ago but continues to improve in the build-up to the clash in Oita on Saturday.
England have not won a World Cup knockout game for 12 years.
But they have beaten the Wallabies in all of their last six meetings.
Defence coach John Mitchell told BBC 5 Live: “Billy’s doing really well.
“He got through restricted training activity again today, ran with the ball, did some wrestling and boxing and some sprinting on the WattBike.
“He wasn’t smiling after the WattBike, but he’s in good humour and progressing nicely. At this point it’s looking very likely.”
Vunipola was likely to be rested had England’s final group game against France in Yokohama last Saturday gone ahead as scheduled, rather than being cancelled because of the threat of Typhoon Hagibis.
But the loss of that game has bought him time, even as utility back Jack Nowell once again sat out training with a hamstring injury.
Mitchell said: “Billy is a very important player to us and a very likeable player as well.
“He loves the ball in his hand. He’s very good at regaining and retaining momentum. He likes carrying the ball, which is where he has his greatest influence.
“He fits well within the team, but whoever gets the nods within the 31, everyone has a role to play.”
England wary of adventurous Aussies
Australia were beaten by Wales in their key pool game and struggled in the first half against both Fiji and Georgia.
But they beat the All Blacks 47-26 in August, and in Michael Cheika have a coach who plotted England’s demise in the group stages four years ago before taking his team on to the final.
Cheika has yet to settle on a preferred combination at 10 and 12, but with the form of muscular centre Samu Kerevi, he has one of the stand-out performers at this World Cup at his disposal.
Mitchell said: “The Wallabies are a very clever football team, and they will be clever at the weekend.
“They’ve always got their ability in terms of surprise, and they love ball in their hands, which is what they thrive on.
“You’ve got to look at how they attack – they love the ball in hand and they love putting width on it.
“Any one of those possible 10s and nines and 12s fall into that style of football. It doesn’t matter who they put there, they can all play that style.
“Kerevi is such a strong character, and they tend to move him around in structured attacks. He looks like he’s really enjoying his tournament, so he’s a threat we’ll need to be aware of.
“But we have our own beliefs in how we want to play, and we want to embrace this opportunity and bring our strengths out.”
England’s training was watched on Tuesday by Australian rugby league great Ricky Stuart, now the coach of Canberra Raiders.
Stuart will be invited to share his ideas about both coaching and England’s shape in the run-up to a game that could do much to define whether the Eddie Jones regime has been a success or failure.
It is 12 years since England last reached the semi-finals of a World Cup, their defeat of a much-fancied Wallabies team in Marseille in 2007 one of their great displays in the tournament.
Residents in north London are facing a flood a meter deep after a large water mains burst causing some people to leave their homes.
A “river” of water has flooded properties on Queens Drive and Princess Crescent in Finsbury Park, closing a a local primary school.
Postcode areas N1, N4, N5, N7 and N19 have either no water or low water pressure, Thames Water said.
Traffic and pedestrians have been advised to avoid the area.
The water company said its engineers are, “doing everything they can to get things up and running as quickly as possible.”
It has apologised to customers but so far had not managed to turn off water from the burst pipe, a spokesman said, adding “it was a complicated process”.
Matthew who lives in a first-floor flat on Queens Drive woke up to the river outside his home and quickly alerted the occupants living in the basement property.
They have now been given temporary stay in another flat, said Matthew, who has a week-old baby.
He said he is worried about not having any water.
“I’m concerned about hygiene and although my wife is breast-feeding she needs to drink,” he said.
Cars can be seen stranded with water levels up to their wheel rims.
Parkwood Primary and Nursery schools have been shut as a result of the flood.
Thames Water is hoping to stop the water flowing from the burst pipe and reconnect customers by midday.
As well as fire officers checking basement flats, loss adjusters from Thames Water are on hand to provide help to residents who may now need somewhere to stay.
A man has been arrested after seemingly trying to set fire to himself outside the Houses of Parliament.
The Metropolitan Police said a man had been detained under the Mental Health Act after covering himself “in what appeared to be a flammable liquid”.
The police said the man, who had a lighter, had been sprayed with a fire extinguisher and there were no flames.
Tory MP Huw Merriman, who witnessed the episode, praised the “incredibly brave response” from the police.
The Met confirmed there had been an incident in which a man had “doused” himself with an unknown substance outside Carriage Gates – the main entrance to Parliament.
The police said there had been no reported injuries and the man had been taken to hospital after being examined at the scene by the emergency services.
The London Fire Brigade, it added, had made the scene safe by dispersing the suspected flammable liquid.
The Commons and Lords are sitting this week despite the Conservative conference continuing in Manchester – after MPs voted against a short recess for the event.
Chancellor Sajid Javid is currently answering Treasury questions while ministers will later answer Urgent Questions on the government’s latest Brexit proposals, as well as homelessness and Yemen.
Heavy rain is causing travel problems and flash flooding across England.
Three flood warnings and 29 flood alerts have been put in place by the Environment Agency.
The Met Office has a yellow rain warning covering most of the country in force until 23:00 BST.
Floods have been reported on roads in Southampton, Birmingham and Liverpool, while Transport for London (TfL) said a number of roads across the capital were also affected by flooding.
A flood warning is in place in Crawley for the Ifield Brook and River Mole at Ifield and the River Mole at Lowfield Heath.
Flooding is also expected on the upper Frome between Maiden Newton and Dorchester in Dorset.
National Rail has warned of major disruption between Birmingham Snow Hill and Stourbridge until about noon because of a tree blocking the line earlier.
Southampton City Centre has seen problems with several cars having broken down in water on Millbrook Road West.
Motorists have also been advised to avoid the road between Waterhouse Lane and Paynes Road.
Roads have flooded in the Longbridge area of Birmingham, while Mersey Fire and Rescue Service reported vehicles trapped in floodwater in the Queens Drive and West Derby area of Liverpool.
A service spokesman urged drivers to “please take extra care”, adding: “Slow down, increase your distances, switch your lights on and please don’t drive into floodwater.”
About 2in (49.6mm) of rain fell in the six hours before 09:00 at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, according to the Met Office.
Spokesman Grahame Madge said it was a “significant” amount of rain.
He said the band of rain was “transient” and, having started in the South West, has moved to the Midlands before hitting the North later in the day.
He said some other areas could expect to see the same amount of rain as Boscombe Down.
Downward dogs and yoga mats have replaced cars and buses on London’s Tower Bridge as part of Car Free Day.
The mass yoga session was one of a number of activities taking place in the capital as more than 16 miles (27 km) of streets were shut.
Bank junction has been turned into a festival space while children will race go-karts in the Square Mile.
The closures will be in place until 19:00 BST with roads elsewhere expected to be busy as a result.
Tower and London Bridge were shut at 07:00 along with streets in parts of the City, Southwark and Tower Hamlets.
Among the other activities taking place are a hedge maze in Cheapside and classic cycle rides on Tower Bridge.
Organisers hope more than 150,000 people will join the event which has been named Reimagine.
Away from the centre, 15 boroughs will be running their own Car Free Day celebrations and more than 340 “play streets” – safe spaces for local people to socialise and play – have been approved some 24 boroughs.
London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan said the day was about “demonstrating our commitment to cleaning up our toxic air and experiencing a greener way of living”.
Transport for London has warned that those who do take to the roads should expect “significant delays”.
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.
A fourth teenager has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of a boy at a chicken shop in central London.
Josiph Beker, 17, was stabbed to death outside Edgware Road KFC, Westminster, at about 14:00 BST on 10 September.
A 16-year-old boy was arrested on Sunday in connection with the murder. He remains in custody.
Two 16-year-old boys were charged with murder on Saturday. An 18-year-old arrested over the murder has been bailed pending further inquiries.