10 Interesting facts about London

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘DEBLOGTROOP’ BLOG)

 

10 Interesting facts about London

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Fact#1: “Big Ben” is not the clock tower.

Big Ben London

The Big Ben is actually the name of the bell inside the tower. The tower itself is called the “Elizabeth Tower”. The tower is currently tilting to one side, similar to the leaning tower of Pisa! This is partly as a result of decades of underground excavation.

Fact#2: It’s the most visited city in the world.

London England

In 2014, London attracted over 16 million international visitors, setting a record of the most visited city in the world.

Fact#3: Taxi drivers in London have to take a test called “knowledge test”.

London Cab

The black cab taxi drivers have to pass the insanely difficult geography test called the “knowledge test”. They are expected to master 320 basic routes, all of the 25,000 streets that are scattered within those routes and just about 20,000 landmarks and places of interest within a six-mile radius of Charring Cross. So if you see someone on a scooter with a large map, it could most probably be an aspiring cabbie studying for the “knowledge test”.

Fact#4: The Palace of Westminster is the largest palace in the country.

Westminster Big Ben London

The houses of parliament are known as the Palace of Westminster. It is the largest palace in the country consisting of 6 restaurants, 8 bars, 1000 rooms, 100 staircases, 11 courtyards, a hair salon and a rifle shooting range. Fun fact: It is illegal to die in the Palace of Westminster.

Fact#5: London tried building its own Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower France Parise London

In 1889, London started to build a structure designed to surpass the Eiffel Tower in height but it was unsteady and was never completed. It was later on demolished in 1907.

Fact#6: About 40% of Greater London is green space.

London England

There is a lot of greenery is the city of greater London, the whole city is covered in green. With over 8 million trees in London, London can be classified as a forest according to a UN definition.

Fact#7: The city of London is one of the smallest in the UK.

London Downing Street

The core city of London is actually the smallest city in London stretching up to only 1.12 square miles with a population of around 7000. However, the area which developed around the core city called Greater London consists of about 8.5 million people and it is large enough to fit 4 New York Cities.

Fact#8: There is a cereal café in London.

Cereal Killer Cafe London

There is a special café in London that serves hundreds of varieties of breakfast cereals from around the world. The name of the café is “Cereal Killer Café”.

Fact#9: The world’s first traffic light signal was installed in London.

London Traffic Lights

The world’s first traffic light signal was installed in London in the year 1868 at the junction of Great George St and Bridge St near Westminster Palace in London. However, it was short-lived, as it exploded less than a month later injuring the operating police officer.

Fact#10: “London Eye” is the most popular tourist attraction in London.

London Eye

The London Eye is the name of a huge Ferris wheel located on the south bank of River Thames. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London. It was the tallest in the world until 2006 when the Star of Nanchang in China surpassed it.

UK wants to send ‘colossal’ warships to test Beijing’s claims in S. China Sea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

UK wants to send ‘colossal’ warships to test Beijing’s claims in S. China Sea

Story highlights

  • British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said carriers will embark on freedom of navigation exercises
  •  Beijing says “certain outside countries” attempting to “stir up trouble”

Hong Kong (CNN) China has hit back at the UK after the country’s foreign secretary said two British aircraft carriers could be sent to patrol the South China Sea.

Speaking Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said “certain outside countries are determined to stir up trouble” in the region.
“Whatever banners these countries or officials claim to uphold, and whatever excuses they claim to have, their track record of bringing chaos and humanitarian disasters through their so-called moral interventions in other parts of the world is enough to make nations and peoples in the region maintain high vigilance,” he added.
His remarks come after UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, speaking in Australia Thursday, said “one of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area.”
Johnson did not specify exactly where the carriers would be sent, but added the operation was designed to “vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade.”
In an interview with the Reuters news agency, UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon said the deployment area was not finalized “but we won’t be constrained by China from sailing through the South China Sea.”

Johnson spoke alongside Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Speaking at an event in Sydney Thursday evening, Johnson urged all parties in the South China Sea “to respect freedom of navigation and international law” and suggested the UK could sail ships through the Strait of Malacca, which connects the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, and has heavily militarized some islands in the region and expanded other territories with major land reclamation work, turning sandbars into islands and equipping them with airfields, ports and weapons systems.
All or parts of the sea are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, which has led to intense territorial disputes and naval stand-offs.

The new UK Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth departs Rosyth dockyard in Scotland to be tested in the North Sea on June 26, 2017.

Freedom of navigation

Beijing has accused the United States of creating a “serious political and military provocation” by conducting similar freedom of navigation operations.
US, Canadian, Australian and Japanese warships conducted a freedom of navigation operation this month, according to Canada’s National Post, during which they were shadowed by Chinese naval vessels.
Neither the UK or US recognize Beijing’s territorial claims — which were largely thrown out by an international tribunal last year — and maintain vessels should be able to pass through the waters around the islands occupied by China the same as other international waters.
The South China Sea sees $5 trillion in shipborne trade every year, and also has major fishing and energy resources.
That the UK is apparently taking sides in the dispute is likely to especially rankle in Beijing, where memories of China’s so-called “century of humiliation,” during which it suffered embarrassing defeat to the UK in the Opium Wars, are still fresh — and kept so by state propaganda and the country’s education system.
Speaking in Hong Kong this month to mark 20 years since the city was handed over from the UK to China, the country’s president, Xi Jinping, said that China “was again and again beaten by countries having far smaller territories and populations than itself … the history of China at that time was filled with the nation’s humiliation and its people’s grief.”

Waning ties

Under former British Prime Minister David Cameron, London had warmed to Beijing, and Cameron had hailed a new “golden era” in the countries’ relationship.
The luster has faded somewhat in the wake of Brexit however. The European Union is China’s largest trading partner. The UK’s decision to leave the bloc has shattered any assumptions about a tight London-Beijing relationship acting as a gateway to the wider EU.
Cameron’s successor Theresa May has also brought the UK closer to the US, visiting Donald Trump in Washington and seeking to improve economic ties with the US to make up for lost European trade.
Speaking Thursday evening, Johnson emphasized the deployment of the UK’s carriers — the 280 meter and 65,000 tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, neither of which is yet fully commissioned — was “not because we have enemies in the region … but because we believe in upholding the rule of law.”
The vessels have cost British taxpayers upwards of $8.1 billion and been subject to criticism for taking up a large chunk of the UK’s defense budget. The carriers are designed to support F-35 fighter jets, which the UK will not have until 2020, according to the National Audit Office.
Johnson did not give a timeline as to when any South China Sea deployment by the carriers is likely to start. His comments come after the Royal Navy shadowed a Chinese flotilla through the English Channel on its way to exercises with the Russian fleet in the Baltic Sea.

London: Charlie Gard’s Parents Have Decided To Let Him Go

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

http://www.christianpost.com/news/charlie-gards-parents-we-have-decided-to-let-him-go-193069/?utm_source=newsletter

Church of England Votes to Affirm Transgender People; Top Bishop Says LGBT ‘Not a Sin’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

Church of England Votes to Affirm Transgender People; Top Bishop Says LGBT ‘Not a Sin’

Jul 10, 2017 | 7:22 AM

(PHOTO: REUTERS/GARETH FULLER/POOL)The new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks to the congregation during a ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral, in Canterbury, southern England March 21, 2013.

The General Synod of the Church of England has officially passed a motion welcoming and affirming transgender people to the church. A top bishop also declared that being LGBT is “not a sin.”

“That this Synod, recognizing the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition,” the motion that passed on Sunday reads.

As the official CofE website points out, the vote went overwhelmingly in favor of welcoming transgender people, with 30 for the motion and two opposed in the House of Bishops; 127 who backed the motion and 28 against it in the House of Clergy; and 127 for and 48 against in the House of Laity.

The Rev. Christopher Newlands of the Blackburn Diocesan Synod said at the beginning of the assembly: “I hope that we can make a powerful statement to say that we believe that trans people are cherished and loved by God, who created them, and is present through all the twists and turns of their lives.”

During the synod’s weekend session, the church body also backed a motion calling for a ban on what critics have called “conversion therapy” for people with unwanted same-sex attractions.

The Archbishop of York, the Most Rev. John Sentamu, who is one of the most senior officials in the CofE, declared: “As the world listens to us, the world needs to hear us say that LGBT orientation and identity is not a crime.”

“LGBT orientation and identity is not a sickness. And LGBT orientation and identity is not a sin,” Sentamu added, according to BBC News.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, said that he continues upholding the church’s definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

A number of church bodies within the Anglican Communion have challenged that definition, including The Scottish Episcopal Church, which became the first mainstream Christian denomination in the U.K. to approve same-sex marriage in June.

Concerns from Anglican conservatives over the pro-LGBT direction they say the CofE has taken has led groups such as the Global Anglican Future Conference to put forward their own “missionary bishop” to oversee traditional Anglican parishes.

GAFCON has said that the Western world is “abandoning Christian heritage,” and warned that a number of U.K. churches are “under pressure to compromise clear Christian teaching in the face of secular humanist philosophy.

“In some cases, the Gospel appears to have been watered down or even denied. Even some faithful clergy do not feel free to give clear teaching on key topics such as sexual ethics or the uniqueness of Christ,” GAFCON said earlier.

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, the Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council, wrote following The Scottish Episcopal Church’s decision to change its laws on marriage:

“This attempt to redefine marriage is not a secondary issue about which we can agree to disagree and continue to walk together. It means that Jesus was mistaken when he taught that marriage was between a man and a woman and that sex outside of such a marriage is a sin.

“It is a radical rejection of the authority of Scripture. The Church claims that it can consecrate behavior that God’s Word clearly teaches to be sinful. According to the Bible, this behavior, without repentance, separates those who practice it from his kingdom.”

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

Saudi Arabia Has a ‘Clear Link’ to Violent Jihadist Groups in the U.K.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS AND THE BBC)

A Report Claims That Saudi Arabia Has a ‘Clear Link’ to Violent Jihadist Groups in the U.K.

6:01 AM ET

A report by a British think tank claims that Saudi Arabia is the principle foreign promoter of Islamist extremism in the United Kingdom and alleges a “clear and growing link” between overseas funding and violent Jihadist groups in the country.

The Henry Jackson Society — a neo-conservative think tank — also urges a public inquiry into the funding of terrorism by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, the BBC reports.

The calls comes as U.K. lawmakers face mounting pressure to release the findings of their own probe into domestic extremist groups, instigated by former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015. In May, the Home Office described the findings as “very sensitive” and said it that they wouldn’t necessarily be made public.

Read more: Middle East Rifts Are Widening Amid a Global Power Vacuum

Like the United States, the U.K. has deep and convoluted security and economic ties with Saudi Arabia. In an April visit, British Prime Minister Theresa May reaffirmed the importance of the relationship. However, British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has lobbied for a block on arms exports to Saudi Arabia on the grounds of the Kingdom’s military action in Yemen and its poor human rights record.

In a statement cited by the BBC, Saudi Arabia’s embassy in London dismissed the findings of the Henry Jackson Society as “categorically false” and said they lacked “credible evidence.”

[BBC]

Hong Kong residents march to defend freedom as China’s president draws a ‘red line’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Hong Kong residents march to defend freedom as China’s president draws a ‘red line’

 July 1 at 7:48 AM
 Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents marched through the streets in defense of their cherished freedoms Saturday, in the face of what many see as a growing threat from mainland China, exactly two decades after the handover from British rule.Earlier in the day, China’s president, Xi Jinping, marked the 20th anniversary of the handover with his sternest warning yet to the territory’s people: You can have autonomy, but don’t do anything that challenges the authority of the central government or undermines national sovereignty.

Under the terms of the 1997 handover, China promised to grant Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years, but Xi said it was important to have a “correct understanding” of the relationship between one country and two systems.

“One country is like the roots of a tree,” he told Hong Kong’s elite after swearing in a new chief executive to govern the territory, Carrie Lam. “For a tree to grow and flourish, its roots must run deep and strong. The concept of one country, two systems was advanced first and foremost to realize and uphold national sovereignty.”

Many people in Hong Kong accused China of violating the territory’s autonomy in 2015 by seizing five publishers who were putting out gossipy books about the Chinese leadership and allegedly distributing them on the mainland.

Some are also angry that Beijing intervened to disqualify newly elected pro-independence lawmakers who failed to correctly administer the oath of office last year. Many people are worried about a steady erosion of press freedom, and that in a range of areas China is increasingly determined to call the shots.

But Xi made it clear that challenges to Beijing’s authority would not be allowed.

“Any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the central government and the authority of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, or use Hong Kong for infiltration or sabotage activities against the mainland, is an act that crosses the red line and is absolutely impermissible,” he said.

But that message didn’t appear to go down well on the streets of Hong Kong. Organizers said more than 60,000 people joined Saturday’s annual march, which they said was meant to deliver a message to the Chinese president.

“He’s threatening Hong Kong’s people, saying he has the power to make us do what he wants,” said Anson Woo, a 19-year-old student. “But I still have hope. Seeing all the people around me today, the people of Hong Kong are still fighting for what we value.”

A poll by the Chinese University of Hong Kong showed people here attach even greater importance to judicial independence and freedom of the press than to economic development. Any notion that Hong Kong as a city is only about making money is clearly not accurate.

“We have to take the chance to express our views while we still can,” said Chan Sui Yan, a 15-year-old schoolgirl. “They say it is one country, two systems, but right now we are losing a lot of the rights we value.”

Some chanted slogans demanding democracy, criticizing the territory’s ruling elite or the Communist Party. many called for the release of Nobel laureate and democracy icon Liu Xiabo, imprisoned in China since 2008 and this week taken to a hospital under close guard for treatment for advanced liver cancer.

“We want to show the mainland there are other voices, outside the official voice,” said teacher Tong Siu, 53. “We want to safeguard the core values of Hong Kong.”

In his speech, China’s leader said that the concept of one country, two systems was a great success, and should be implemented “unswervingly” and not be “bent or distorted.”

While his words made it clear that sovereignty took precedence over autonomy, he said neither aspect should be neglected. “Only in this way will the ship of one country, two systems break the waves, sail steadily and last the distance,” he said.

Yet many people here say Hong Kong’s autonomy was again badly distorted in March, with Lam’s election as chief executive. Although the former bureaucrat trailed well behind rival candidate John Tsang in opinion polls, she was chosen by a panel of 1,200 members of the territory’s elite that was packed with pro-Beijing loyalists.

Although Tsang was also an establishment figure, political experts say Beijing seemed to want someone in the chief executive’s chair who would not challenge its authority.

Xi did not shy away from raising two controversial demands that have previously brought Hong Kong residents out on the streets in the hundreds of thousands.

China’s leader said the territory needed to improve its systems “to defend national security, sovereignty and development interests,” as well as “enhance education and raise public awareness of the history and culture of the Chinese nation.”

China’s demand that the territory pass a national security law caused massive street protests 14 years ago, while plans to implement a program of “patriotic education” brought more people onto the streets in 2012 and helped politicize the territory’s youths.

Both plans were subsequently shelved, but Lam has indicated she aims to put them back on the table. But she also argues the time isn’t right to satisfy a popular demand for greater democracy by allowing a future chief executive to be chosen by universal suffrage.

Marchers said moves to interfere with the education system smacked of “brainwashing.”

Martin Lee, Hong Kong’s veteran pro-democracy political leader, said China was deliberately confusing patriotism with obedience.

“When they say you must love the country, what they mean is you must obey the Communist Party,” he said. “We have no problem with the Communist Party as long as it adheres to the promises made to us.”

But Lee said China had not fulfilled its promise to grant Hong Kong greater democracy.

“They kept on postponing democracy,” he said. “That’s why young people are losing their patience.”

On Saturday morning, a small group of pro-democracy protesters said they were attacked by hired thugs when they tried to stage a demonstration, and subsequently were briefly detained and beaten by police.

Joshua Wong, who led protests against patriotic education in 2012 and in favor of democracy in 2014, was among the group and called the incident another violation of the promise to maintain Hong Kong’s values, including the right to free speech. “‘One country, two systems’ has given way to ‘one country, one-and-a-half systems,’” he told The Washington Post.

“Why would Hong Kong people want to accept patriotic education from a country that is ruled by a single party dictatorship?” he said. “This is the core question. If the government is not elected by the people, how can we have a sense of belonging?”

Luna Lin contributed to this report.

Syrian Refugee Identified as First Victim in London Tower Fire as Toll Set to Rise

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Syrian Refugee Identified as First Victim in London Tower Fire as Toll Set to Rise

London

A Syrian refugee has been named as the first victim of the towerblock inferno in London as officials expected the death toll in the tragedy to rise dramatically.

Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali has been identified on Friday as a victim in the fire. His brother Omar broke down in tears as he told how Mohammed got trapped in the burning block as they both tried to flee their 14th floor home.

Scores of people are feared dead after the massive blaze tore through the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in West London just after midnight on Wednesday.

London police said there is nothing to suggest that fire was started deliberately.

Omar, who initially thought his brother had escaped, spoke to Mohammed by phone from outside the block as he watched it engulfed in flames and thick black smoke.

“He said: ‘Why (have) you left me…?’ He said: “I’m dying. I cannot breathe,” Omar told the BBC.

“We came from Syria to be safe here, and now we’re dying.”

Mohammed, reported to be 23, came to Britain in 2014 and was studying engineering in London.
The Syria Solidarity Campaign said Mohammed had tried to call his family in Syria during the fire but could not get connected. He had not seen his family for four years.

“When the fire reached his flat … Mohammed bid his friend and brothers goodbye, saying that the fire had reached him. He asked them to pass on the message to his family in Syria,” the charity said in a statement.

“Mohammed undertook a dangerous journey to flee war and death in Syria, only to meet it here in the UK, in his own home.”

The charity said Mohammed had dreamed that he would one day be able to go back and help rebuild Syria. It called for a “thorough investigation” into building regulations, adding: “Mohammed came to this country for safety and the UK failed to protect him.”

Up to 600 people lived in the social housing block in more than 120 apartments. The official death toll stood at 30 on Friday but is expected to soar. Firefighters say they do not expect to find more survivors.

Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy responded to speculation that the number of dead could exceed 100, saying: “From a personal perspective, I really hope it isn’t.”

“The investigation will look in into what criminal offenses may have been committed,” he added.

Firefighters searching the smoldering ruin in west London have recovered six bodies from the tower, while 11 others have been located but cannot yet be removed from the gutted structure.

Families searching for their loved ones have blanketed the area near the tower with posters searching for answers, and sorrow is quickly turning to anger over whether recent building works were properly done.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William had arrived at a London site where community groups have gathered supplies for those affected by the tower fire disaster.

The queen is meeting with volunteers Friday and she has expressed her sympathies to families of victims. More than 1 million pounds ($1.27 million) has been raised to help victims of the fire

British Prime Minister Theresa May visited on Friday those injured in the fire after facing fierce criticism for attending the site but not meeting with residents.

She visited Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, which is treating eight people. Three are in critical condition.

May pledged on Thursday to hold a public inquiry into a fire that engulfed the building, but she has been widely attacked for not meeting with residents, sending ministers to do so instead.

The tower is in the North Kensington neighborhood, a working-class, multi-ethnic area next to some of the richest neighborhoods in Britain. Some observers asked whether hazards in the Grenfell complex were ignored because its residents are mainly poor.

A tenant group had complained for years about the risk of a fire in the building, owned by the local government in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Fire safety engineers were stunned at how rapidly the fire spread, engulfing the building in less than an hour in the middle of the night and preventing firefighters from reaching many people inside.

Authorities have refused to speculate on what could have started the blaze. But the focus has turned to renovations completed last year that added decorative touches to the building.

The project included installing insulated exterior cladding, double-glazed windows and a communal heating system.

Britain’s government has ordered checks at towers going through similar renovations, and some London neighborhood authorities said Thursday they’d do extra fire-safety assessments at public housing high-rises.

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London Fire: At Least 6 Dead After Blaze Engulfs Apartment Tower

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

LONDON — A fire transformed a high-rise apartment tower in West London into an inferno early Wednesday morning, sending at least at least 64 people to hospitals and raising fears that others might have been trapped inside. The Metropolitan Police confirmed that six people had died and warned that the figure would almost certainly rise.

“In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never, ever seen anything of this scale,” said Dany Cotton, commissioner of the London Fire Brigade.

By the early afternoon, more than 200 firefighters from all over London were continuing to extinguish the remnants of the fire and to search for survivors, long after the blaze broke out at 1:16 a.m. in Grenfell Tower, in the North Kensington area. Constructed in 1974, the building has 24 stories, with 120 apartments across 20 residential floors.

“In my 29 years of being a
firefighter, I have never,
ever seen anything of this scale.”DANY COTTON, THE COMMISSIONER OF LONDON’S FIRE BRIGADE

The cause of the fire was not immediately known. Commissioner Cotton said the precise number of deaths had not yet been determined because of “the size and complexity of this building.”

Adib Abbas was visiting a cousin who lives on the ninth floor of the building. He said he was preparing a meal before their daily Ramadan fast when he smelled gas and then heard people in the floors below shouting.

“I opened the door and everyone was shouting ‘fire, fire, get back in,’” Mr. Abbas said. “Then a neighbor called my cousin and told us to wait for the Fire Brigade. We were terrified and thought about trying to get out the window. There were people dangling out the windows trying to get out.”

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Local residents watching the fire. CreditDaniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“My cousin had his kids with him, and they started crying and screaming when the smoke started coming in. There was no way out, we were stuck, and no one was coming to help us,” Mr. Abbas added. “I don’t know how long it took, but it felt like ages before we got out. I could see people lying on the floor as we were being pulled out. I think a lot of people died. It’s a nightmare.”

The Fire Brigade said the flames had spread from the second floor to the top of the 24-story building; aerial photographs showed the charred, blackened and still smoking ruins looming over West London.

Forty fire trucks were involved in fighting the blaze, and more than 20 ambulances were sent to the scene. The London Ambulance Service said it had taken at least 64 patients to six hospitals. Twenty were in critical condition.

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Photo

Columns of thick smoke. The London Ambulance Service said it had taken at least 64 people to six hospitals. CreditAndy Rain/European Pressphoto Agency

Cmdr. Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police said the process of tracking everyone who was unaccounted for was “very complex,” and urged survivors to call a hotline set up to establish the condition of all the building’s residents. He said the Fire Brigade had arrived within six minutes of being called.

Alison Evans, who lives near Grenfell Tower, woke to the sounds of sirens and helicopters and watched the fire engulf the building from a nearby street.

“It just kept burning and burning for hours and for hours there were still people at the top of the building screaming for help,” she said. “It was hell to watch. We were watching people dying. I can’t imagine how many people must have died in there.”

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Firefighters training hoses on the building. A residents’ association has regularly complained in its newsletter of fire hazards in the building and what it called inattention by the landlord.CreditLeon Neal/Getty Images

At dawn, the blaze still burned brightly against the pale sky, with columns of thick black smoke ascending. Ashes filled the air, and small explosions could be heard as helicopters flew overhead. Firefighters on the ground trained hoses on the building. The police were extending their cordon around the building and pushing people back, apparently fearing that the tower could collapse.

Abdul Kadiri, who stood with his family watching the fire, said he had heard sirens about 1:45 a.m.

“My friend lives with his family on the 15th floor of the building,” he said. “I called my friend, and he had no idea what was going on. I told him to grab his family and get out, and he hung up.”

When the friend got out safely, Mr. Kadiri said, “he told me there was smoke everywhere, and he got out with the help of the firefighters who were on the fourth floor. He was a real mess and didn’t say much.

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A man inside the burning building. The London Fire Brigade said the flames had spread from the second floor to the top floor. CreditMatt Dunham/Associated Press

“He was just so happy to be out of there,” Mr. Kadri said. “He was crying thinking of all the children that would have been asleep on the higher floors and probably weren’t able to get out.”

Another resident, Hanan Wahabi, said she had spoken by phone to her brother, who was on the 21st floor, and urged him to leave. But he said firefighters had told him to stay in place until he could be rescued. Since then, she had been unable to reach him.

“I have done a lot of crying,” she said.

Meriam Antur was asleep on the 19th floor with her two children, her husband away, when she woke to the sound of sirens, followed by shouting in the corridors. “I panicked and called my husband while trying to put on my hijab so I could go and see what was happening,” she said. “I couldn’t get through, so I called my cousin, who told me to get out.”

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A resident in a nearby building. More than 200 firefighters from all over London were struggling to contain the blaze. CreditMatt Dunham/Associated Press

When she opened her apartment door, Ms. Antur said, “my neighbors were running back and forth in the corridor shouting at each other. I didn’t understand until my friend came in and said we had to wait for the firemen and couldn’t go down.”

“I was so scared. It took so long, my children were crying, and I’m pregnant,” she said, clasping her belly. “I was so scared. I thought we were going to die.”

Paramedics led Ms. Antur and her children away to be checked at a hospital. In the background, a woman ran barefoot down the street in her nightgown, screaming the name Elsa. Ms. Antur’s cousin said it was a neighbor who could not find her 6-year-old daughter.

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Firefighters in a children’s playground covered in debris from the burning tower nearby. CreditNeil Hall/Reuters

In the early hours of the fire, witnesses said they could see lights — thought to be flashlights — blinking at the top of the building.

Bruce Evans, who lives nearby, said that a family of four he is friendly with — including a baby — had escaped from the ninth floor via the main stairs.

“The mum heard screaming and shouting, looked out of the window and saw flames. She said she has shouted ‘Oh my God, it’s fire! Let’s go,’” he said. “They are at the hospital now having checks on the baby.”

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At least 40 fire engines were at the scene. CreditToby Melville/Reuters

Mr. Evans said that he was told that the fire had started on the fourth floor and that the occupant of the apartment in which it started had alerted other residents on that floor.

A residents’ association, the Grenfell Action Group, had been warning for years about fire hazards in the building and the surrounding area, and what it called inattention by the landlord.

According to the Get West London website, the Grenfell Tower block completed a renovation costing 10 million pounds, or $12.8 million, in May 2016. The upgrade — which included the installation of insulated exterior cladding, double-glazed windows and a new communal heating system — was financed by the local council, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, as part of a multimillion-dollar improvement project in the area.

In a blog post, the group wrote that the “the KCTMO narrowly averted a major fire disaster at Grenfell Tower in 2013 when residents experienced a period of terrifying power surges that were subsequently found to have been caused by faulty wiring.” It asserted that “our attempts to highlight the seriousness of this event were covered up by the KCTMO,” with help from the borough’s security committee, “who refused to investigate the legitimate concerns of tenants and leaseholders.”

The management organization’s chief executive, Robert Black, said in a statement: “The fire at Grenfell Tower is devastating and the reports of injury and losses of life absolutely heartbreaking. Along with my colleagues, I have been supporting residents since the early hours, working with the emergency services and the community.” He did not address the complaints raised by the Grenfell Action Group.

Rydon, the construction company that carried out the renovation, said in a statement that the work “met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards.”

“We will cooperate with the relevant authorities and emergency services and fully support their enquiries into the causes of this fire at the appropriate time,” the company added.

8COMMENTS

At the time the renovation was announced, in 2014, the management organization said in a statement that “residents of the tower have long had to put up with a substandard heating system and poor insulation,” and that a new heating system would allow them to set the temperatures in their units.

Kensington and Chelsea is one of 32 boroughs that make up London, along with the City, London’s financial district.

Prime Minister May Forced To Form New Government With Help From DUP Party

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

British Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to form a government that will provide “certainty” and guide the country through Brexit, just hours after voters delivered her party a huge blow at the polls.

May, who visited Buckingham Palace to meet with Queen Elizabeth II Friday, said she would work in particular with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which she described as her “friends and allies”

UK Election 2017 results

326 Seats needed for majorityData:PA
Party Seats Change
Conservative 318 -12
Labour 261 +31
Scottish National Party 35 -19
Other 35
649/650 Seats declared*Scotland
Promising to move towards a Brexit deal, enabling Britain to exit the European Union, May said the new government would “be able to work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom.”
Brexit talks — due to start in 10 day’s time — may be delayed and the Prime Minister’s personal authority undermined by the shock result, which left the Conservatives short of a working majority by just eight seats.
It’s an embarrassing turn for May who called the snap election three years earlier than required by law, convinced by opinion polls that seemed to place her in a strong position.
In a night of high drama across the UK, her party shed seats to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, which surpassed expectations.

‘Catastrophic’ results

For May, who called the snap election in April, the failure to gain a large majority already has critics sniping.
George Osborne, the former finance minister who stepped down at the election, told ITV that the results were “catastrophic” for his party. Anna Soubry, a Conservative MP, said May would have to consider her position.
Meawhile, Corbyn said the early results showed May had lost her mandate and called for her to resign.
“People have said they have had quite enough of austerity politics,” he said, repeating his campaign promises to push for better funding for health and education.

Upsets elsewhere

After the result was declared in her constituency of Maidenhead, May gave a faltering speech. “At this time more than anything else, this country needs a period of stability,” she said, suggesting she would attempt to form a government even if her party loses its majority.
There were upsets elsewhere in the UK: In Scotland. the Scottish National Party was on course for significant losses. The former leader, Alex Salmond, lost his seat, as the Conservative Party made some rare gains in Scotland.

Theresa May: What you need to know

Theresa May: What you need to know
The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrat Party did not make its hoped-for inroads. Former leader Nick Clegg, a former Deputy Prime Minister, lost his Sheffield Hallam seat. Tim Farron, the current leader, retained his seat with only a narrow majority.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd, one of May’s closest allies, barely held onto her seat of Hastings and Rye, after a recount put her just over 300 votes ahead of the Labour candidate.
May experienced a gradual slide during the campaign period, in which a wide gap between the Conservatives and Labour narrowed.
Predictions of Conservative success became more modest as the party’s campaign faltered following a series of missteps.
May was criticized for making a number of U-turns on social welfare and she came under fire for a controversial proposal on who should pay for the cost of care for the elderly, a policy that became known as the “dementia tax.”
Her opponents also took issue with her refusal to take part in a televised debate with other party leaders.
The Prime Minister called what she thought would be a Brexit-focused election, but the issue was quickly overshadowed by security as two deadly terror attacks, in Manchester and London, struck during the campaign period.
The attacks only put May under more scrutiny for national security decisions she made during her tenure as Home Secretary, a role she held for six years in the government of her predecessor, David Cameron.
The attacks triggered a heated debate on whether the police are well-enough resourced to deal with terror threats. Police numbers across the UK were cut by 20,000 under May’s watch as Home Secretary.

British politics in foment as exit poll shows May failing to win majority

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

British politics in foment as exit poll shows May failing to win majority

By Kate Holton and David Milliken | LONDON

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party will fail to win a parliamentary majority in Britain’s election, according to an exit poll on Thursday, a shock result that would plunge domestic politics into turmoil and could delay Brexit talks.

The exit poll predicted May’s party would not win a majority of the 650 seats in parliament to take office alone, meaning she would have to form a coalition or attempt to govern with the backing of other smaller parties.

The exit poll predicted the Conservatives would win 314 seats and the Labour Party 266, meaning no clear winner and a “hung parliament”.

The exit poll sent shockwaves through financial markets. Sterling fell more than two cents against the U.S. dollar. .

It was an extraordinary failure for May, who was enjoying opinion poll leads of 20 points and more when she called the snap election just seven weeks ago.

But her lead had gradually shrunk over the course of the campaign, during which she backtracked on a major social care proposal, opted not to take part in a high-profile TV debate with her opponents, and faced questions over her record on security after Britain was hit by two Islamist militant attacks that killed 30 people.

“If the poll is anything like accurate, this is completely catastrophic for the Conservatives and for Theresa May,” George Osborne, who was the Conservative finance minister from 2010 to 2016 when he was sacked by May, said on ITV.

Analysts were treating the exit poll with caution. In the last election, in 2015, the corresponding poll predicted May’s predecessor David Cameron would fall short of a majority. But as the night wore on and the actual results came in from constituencies, it became clear he had in fact won a majority, albeit a small one of just 12 seats.

That outcome was a triumph for Cameron though, because he had been predicted to fall well short. For May, who went into the campaign expecting to win a landslide, even a narrow win later in the night would leave her badly damaged.

Until the final results become clear, it is hard to predict who will form the next government.

“It’s difficult to see, if these numbers were right, how they (the Conservatives) would put together the coalition to remain in office,” said Osborne.

“But equally it’s quite difficult looking at those numbers to see how Labour could put together a coalition, so it’s on a real knife edge.”

Political deadlock in London could derail negotiations with the other 27 EU countries ahead of Britain’s exit from the bloc, due in March 2019, before they even begin in earnest.

A delay in forming a government could push back the start of Brexit talks, currently scheduled for June 19, and reduce the time available for what are expected to be the most complex negotiations in post-World War Two European history.

The poll forecast the Scottish National Party (SNP) would win 34 seats, the center-left Liberal Democrats 14, the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru three and the Greens one.

If the exit poll is correct, Labour, led by veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn, could attempt to form a government with those smaller parties, which strongly oppose most of May’s policies on domestic issues such as public spending cuts.

May called the snap election to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations with the other 27 EU countries and to cement her grip on the Conservative Party after she took over as prime minister in the wake of last year’s Brexit referendum.

If she fails to win a majority, that could call into question her position as Conservative leader and might mean a second election in Britain this year.

If Corbyn’s Labour does take power with the backing of the Scottish nationalists and the Liberal Democrats, both parties adamantly opposed to Brexit, Britain’s future will be very different to the course the Conservatives were planning and could even raise the possibility of a second referendum.

May had promised to clinch a Brexit deal that prioritized control over immigration policy, with Britain leaving the European single market and customs union, and said no deal would be better than a bad deal.

Labour said it would push ahead with Brexit but would scrap May’s negotiating plans and make its priority maintaining the benefits of both the EU single market and its customs union, arguing no deal with the EU would be the worst possible outcome.

It also proposed raising taxes for the richest 5 percent of Britons, scrapping university tuition fees and investing 250 billion pounds ($315 billion) in infrastructure plans.

(Additional reporting by Paul Sandle, William Schomberg, Andy Bruce, William James, Alistair Smout, Paddy Graham, writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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