June 16, 2017 / 4:19 PM / 3 years ago

Missing: The desperate hunt for lost relatives after London tower block fire

LONDON (Reuters) - Since an inferno engulfed the London tower block she lived in, Sawsan Choucair has been desperately trying to find news of what happened to the other six members of her family who were living there with her.

“I’m just looking at that building every day. I’m like, God help these people,” said Choucair, 42, who had lived with her family in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower for just over a year.

“I’m just hoping that they are in hospital, they’ve made it through the stairway, got out. Everyone - not just my family, every single person in there. I’m praying for them,” she said.

At least 30 people died after a blaze took hold in the early hours of Wednesday and engulfed the tower block in west London which housed some 600 residents in more than 120 apartments.

With dozens still unaccounted for, police have said that the death toll would rise and some victims might never be identified as firefighters search the charred shell of the building to locate the victims’ remains.

All around the gutted tower, posters of the missing were hanging from shop windows, telephone boxes and road signs.

Choucair has added her own posters, appealing for help in finding her mother, sister Nadia and her husband Bassem, and their three children; Mierna, 14, Fatima, 11, and 3-year-old Zayneb. They had lived on the 22nd floor of the tower.

On the night of the blaze, Choucair had not been at home, but rushed back to find the building alight after a friend inside had called, begging for help.    Like many other residents she has spent the days following the fire living in temporary shelters with minimal sleep, printing and distributing posters wherever she can.

British media and angry local residents have raised a series of issues including whether the cladding used on the building helped the blaze spread.London Mayor Sadiq Khan has written to Prime Minister Theresa May demanding answers on behalf of residents.

“The local community feels their grief has been made worse by the lack of information about their missing family members and friends,” he wrote.

“They are fully aware of the true scale of this tragedy but cannot comprehend why they are not being given more information. There is also insufficient support for victims on the ground.”

May has pledged to hold a public inquiry into the fire.

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Choucair told Reuters residents had concerns about the safety of the building and she was angry about what has happened. But she said the welfare of her loved ones was more important.

“Unfortunately this had to happen for things to happen. It’s like a wake up call. Everyone should have learned. This should not have happened in the beginning,” she said.

“I’m not here to blame anyone, that’s not my concern,” she said. “My concern is my family and that everyone is alive.”

Writing by Michael Holden; Editing by Alison Williams

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