Grenfell Tower fire: Almost £3 million raised for victims as local charities overwhelmed by donations

Relief centres ask public to stop donating items as tonnes of supplies are sorted 

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The Independent Online

Almost £3 million has been raised for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in less than 48 hours after the Kensington tower block was engulfed in flames.

Three separate funds have so far raised £2.8 million for families who lost homes and, in many cases, friends and relatives in the blaze.

One JustGiving page set up by Karolina Hanusova has raised £855,000 – more than double its £400,000 target – while another created by Haley Yearwood currently stands at £935,000. A third fund, launched by the London Evening Standard via its Dispossessed Fund, has raised over £1 million.

Donations continued to flood in as tens of families spent their second night in temporary accommodation after losing their homes.

Victims are being housed in a combination of council homes and local hotels, while others are staying with friends. Government ministers have promised to rehouse everyone who lost their home in the same area, but a lack of available council homes means this could take weeks.

While tens of people were rescued from the burning building, 17 are confirmed to have died and 74 received hospital treatment, 15 of whom remain in critical care.

“Several hundred” people are said to have been in the building at the time of the fire and police warned that they expect the death toll to rise significantly.

Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy said he “hoped” the final death toll “does not reach treble figures”. London Fire Brigade officials said it would be a “miracle” if anyone else is found alive.

At churches, mosques and community centres close to the tower, members of the public continued to bring items of food and clothing to donate to those who were affected by the blaze.

Local businesses included Harrods and Pizza Express also sent items, while nearby Shepherds Bush Market offered to store goods in shipping containers on its land.

Some centres had already said they had received enough donated goods and could not cope with the public response, but cars and vans continued to turn up, their boots and back seats loaded with clothes, food, toys, water bottles and toiletries.

Charity Muslim Aid, which in conjunction with Islamic Relief has collected more than 60 tonnes of supplies at a local mosque, asked people to stop donating items and instead contribute to a relief fund for the families.

"We are very grateful for kind donations of food, water, toiletries and other items, but these are no longer needed”, said Jehangir Malik, the charity’s chief executive.

"If people wish to help, we ask that they express their generosity through donations, which will go to Grenfell Disaster Victims."

"I am shocked and deeply disturbed by the nightmare that we have witnessed and I'm so moved by the amazing generosity and support from our volunteers."

The charity has also raised more than £80,000 for Grenfell Tower residents.

Grenfell tower fire: How the disaster unfolded

Volunteers came from all over London, and some from elsewhere in the UK, to help with the relief effort. They sorted the countless bags of donations into piles of men’s and women’s clothing, toiletries, food, bedding, medicines, toys and baby supplies.

One volunteer, who did not wish to be named but had travelled from east London, said she had lost everything in a house fire several years ago and had come to Kensington to show that it is possible for the victims to recover from the disaster.

Other volunteers had taken the day off work in order to help. Some had worked through the night sorting so many items that relief centres had run out of boxes and space to store them.

Social media was used to match victims with items they needed. One local charity used Twitter to announce that a resident was in desperate need of a pram. One was sourced within an hour.

Churches and community centres were also used as meeting places for those desperately seeking news of loved ones who had been in Grenfell Tower at the time of the fire.

Posters pinned to fences outside showed photos of those who are still missing and gave telephone numbers for people to phone if they had any news. Some relatives of Grenwell Tower residents were walking the streets with photos of their loved ones stuck to their fronts, asking local people whether they had seen them.

Investigators began searching the tower block on Thursday but were unable to enter any flats because the building is so unstable. The search will continue on Friday but authorities have warned that it could take “months” to complete.

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