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Grenfell Tower Official Death Toll Stands at 17, Many More missing; Trump Lashes out at Latest Washington Post Report; Democrat-Republican Baseball Game Going on as Scheduled. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired June 15, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:13] ROBYN CURNOW, HOST: Hello, thanks for joining us. You're watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow.
And we are following four major stories across three different continents. We'll take you to Virginia where a top U.S. lawmaker remains in a critical
condition after being shot at a baseball practice.
Also in the U.S., a stunning reports says Donald Trump, the U.S. president, is under investigation for possible obstruction of justice.
Also, we are keeping an eye on the latest from China where fatalities are reported after a blast at a kindergarten.
But first, to Richard Quest in London where the number of dead from the tower block fire is
tragically on the rise. And also, Richard, I understand Sadiq Khan, the mayor is going to come out to give some more information. So, we're
keeping an eye on that as well.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Indeed. The mayor is due, Sadiq Khan, The mayor is due behind me just over there. Any time now,
it's been running late, so his impromptu media briefing keeps getting pushed back. But we were told it was going to start around 4:00 in the
afternoon, which is just about now.
Obviously, as soon as Mayor Khan starts speaking we'll bring it to you live.
Grief and shock have now turned into anger as people are asking why. Apparently warning signs were ignored before the tragedy at the Grenfell
Tower behind me.
The British Prime Minister Theresa May has now visited the scene a short while ago. She has promised a full public inquiry.
The number of dead so far is 17. But that number could increase dramatically as the fire brigade says it has no idea how many people remain
accounted for. And identifying the dead could take some weeks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMMISSIONER DANY COTTON, LONDON FIRE BRIGADE: The ongoing plan today is I have my specialist urban search and rescue teams and advisers who are
working very closely with the local council and the building surveyors to come down, to come to a plan as to how we could make
the building safe going forward to allow my firefighters and the police to work closely together to progress through the building doing a detailed
fingertip search, looking for evidence and looking for identification of people who may have been in the building.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: Now, in the copule of hours that I have been here since arriving just talking to various people around me who knew people, or know people
who were in the building and the number of people who say they have not heard from friends or from relatives of people they knew in the building
gives more credence and succor to this idea that the death toll will rise dramatically in the hours ahead.
Frederick Pleitgen has been talking to residents, those who have lost everything, their homes and their possessions. Fred is in one of the
Fred, the stories are pretty universal in their horror of what people went through on the night. And those people you're with now have the task of --
I was going to say of rebuilding, but they don't even recognize or necessarily know what they have lost.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, you're absolutely right, Richard. And most people, of course, who managed to escape that
building pretty much lost everything that they have. Everybody that we've been speaking to says all their possessions are still inside that building
or were destroyed inside that building. And of course many people, because this was in the middle of the night, fled the building literally with less
than clothes on their backs because they were still in their pajamas, because many obviously had gone to sleep.
So this is a deeply traumatizing event, not just for the people who managed to escape the building, but of course for this entire community. We have
speaken to so many eyewitnesses who were telling us how they were watching all this unfold. They have friends who were inside that building. They
were seeing peoplewho were trapped inside the building and felt absolutely helpless as all of this was unfolding. And of course many of them have
some very big questions as to not only why this fire started, but especially how the fire spread so quickly.
And one of things that's of course the focus is the outside cladding that was put on that building as part of that gigantic refurbishment effort that
we've been talking about over the last day and a half since all this happened, especially those panels, the aluminum composite
panels that were on the outside of that building. That is certainly is going to be one of the things that the investigators are going to be taking
a look at when they conduct that very thorough investigation.
Here's what we have learned so far.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): The first fire crews that arrived at the Grenfell Tower said they were surprised at how quickly the flames were spreading,
eating their way up the side of the high-rise so fast many couldn't escape in time.
[11:05:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A kid was screaming, you know, save my child, things I don't want to repeat but they were screaming in stress.
PLEITGEN: They were trapped in the building.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were trapped in the building. They were under duress.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): But in all the sorrow, serious questions about the building's emergency plan and its safety. The most recent guidance by the
office managing the property from a newsletter to residents from 2014 telling occupants to stay in their apartments if there's a fire.
That guidance, while not uncommon for high-rises, may have proved deadly in this case.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now the lights in the fire escape (ph) didn't work the first 10 floors so it was in complete darkness. There was just -- there was
no evacuate -- the evacuation procedure was to stay in your property.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): A local advocacy group went even further, repeatedly calling the building's fire safety inadequate in the past years after the
local council invested millions refurbishing the tower.
Writing in its blog on Wednesday, "All our warnings falling on deaf ears and we predicted a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter
Residents who escaped the blaze and other witnesses say they believe the cladding on the building's exterior may have fanned the flames. The company
that installed the cladding on the exterior of a London apartment building said in a statement that it is not aware of any link between the fire and
the exterior cladding to the tower.
A councilwoman telling CNN she believes local authorities are not to blame.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, people have been flagging up their concerns about this building but, as you probably know, we've just -- the council has just
done a 3 million refurbishment on it during which obviously we hoped and we felt, with our contractors, that we had dealt with all those concerns.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): The main contractor for the refurbishment said that the work met, quote, "all the required building control fire regulation and
health and safety standards."
This community has been devastated by the Grenfell Tower fire, many residents still unaccounted for and, for those who escaped, all are now
PLEITGEN: The authorities say here for the moment their main priority is still dealing with the fire and its aftermath. But they acknowledge that
the many people who were affected will have some serious questions and that officials will need to provide honest answers.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): And as the grief mounts, so does the anger. Many here feel that authorities they believe neglected their concerns until
PLEITGEN: So, Richard, I know that we are waiting for some more remarks from Mayor
Sadiq Khan. One of the things that he's already said is he's also called for an investigation. He says it needs to move fairly quickly. He wants
an interim report by the end of summer. And of course several things are going to have to be addressed in that interim report. On the one hand,
what led to the fire, how could the fire spread so quickly, but then also was the advice given to the residents to stay in their apartments if a fire
broke out, was that adequate? And also were the emergency paths to get out of the building were those adequate as well?
One of the things that people who have been coming out of the building have been saying is that there was only one stairwell and that that was very,
very congested as they tried to get out.
So a lot of questions that need to be answered and certainly the authorities are saying they owe it to the people who are affected by this
to get that done quickly and thoroughly, Richard.
QUEST: Fred Pleitgen with that part of the story on the other side of the tower from where I am.
This incident is raising all kinds of questions, as Fred was talking, of the safety of high rise buildings, not only here in the UK and London, but
across the world.
Now, our next guest has spoken up about those concerns. He's Andy Slaughter, the member of parliament for the Labour Party representing an
area close to the Granfell Tower.
And Mr. Slaughter, your principle concern about what happened is what? I mean, obviously, you know, in a well regulated environment, these things do
not happen. SoIi think we can start our discussion off with the question, with the proviso that something obviously
went wrong. Where is your concern?
ANDY SLAUGHTER, LABOUR PARTY MP: Well, a number of things appear to have gone wrong and these are complicated issues. So I'm glad the government
has announced a full public inquiry.
The difficulty with that is we have been there before. The last time there was a serious tower block fire with multiple deaths was eight years ago.
It took four years for a report from the coroner and four years later than that, nothing's happened.
So we do need a full inquiry, but it has to be done with a sense of urgency.
But to answer your question, the most urgent issue here is how this fire spread so quickly. And we cannot wait for the public inquiry to answer
that question, because there are hundreds of thousands of people living in high-rise blocks around the UK who want to know the answer to that question
quickly to know whether they have assurance that they are safe in their own homes.
[11:00:01] QUEST: Right, because in this particular case, the added disturbing element is that there was a refurbishment just in the last
couple of years, a multimillion pound refurbishment that should have taken the building up to code standard, or whatever was possible with a building
of that age. Obviously, you can't necessarily start building more internal stairways and the like, if that's what the building already has.
But this renovation should have made it a great deal safer, but perhaps didn't.
SLAUGHTER: Indeed. And the concerns have been raised by residents on this particular block about the way the refurbishment was done, the emergency
access, about debris being left and things of that kind, which are local to this particular area.
But also, when asked why wasn't a sprinkler system fitted? The coroner's report I referred to after the last serious fire recommended retro-fitting
of sprinkler systems. And there are great concerns have been raised. I cannot say whether they are justifiably or not, but
there are real concerns about the type of refurbishment, the type of cladding, that was used.
QUEST: Now, Mr. Slaughter, I recognize that nobody from any political party is going to want to make any form of political point out of a tragedy
of this magnitude, but you are also questioning the cutbacks that have taken place, you and others, in say, for example, the fire brigade and the questions in
relation to safety officers. Basically, the infrastructure of regulation that should in a well-regulated environment prevent such of a tragedy.
SLAUGHTER: Yes. I mean, this has been going on for a number of years. We are seeing, I think, a 14 percent cut in the fire service since 2010, even
a bigger cuts in local government expenditure. And local government was past the responsibility of inspection. And one has to say, eventually, if
you keep cutting and cutting, you do not have the resources to do the, if you like the more detailed preventive and planned work to prevent these
instances, nor do you necessarily have resources to deal with them when they occur.
Having said that, the emergency services and fire services in particular, were outstanding on
the night. And obviously that will be looked into as well.
But I think the main concerns here are around the construction methods, refurbishment and indeed whether there was efficient safeguards to prevent
QUEST: Andy Slaughter, British MP, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
Now, the survivors on this tragedy, they face a life of uncertainty. So you take a look at the tower behind me and you're exceptionally grateful,
you're literally grateful for your life that you got out in time. And then coming to the realization that you got out with your life but everything
else has gone.
Well, luckily, perhaps have such it might be, there is a spirit in London that is seen in these situations, and Londoners are stepping up to help.
Holly Evelyn Robinson captured these photos on Wednesday morning. She says the Westway Sports and Fitness Center (ph) is being turned into a shelter
for victims. She was amazing to see that everyone is pulling together as one might expect.
Oren Liebermann is with me - with more on that part of the story. I mean, you know, one would be surprised if there wasn't, but this spirit of
community in a city that people often think of as a large and anonymous one is heartwarming in the face of tragedy.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Heartwarming at the very least, a magnitude of the outpouring of support is impressive. And no
matter whether you see it here or some of the other community centers, mosques, churches and shelters
that we have been to, it has been nothing short of tremendous the amount of donations that have been made here, whether it is clothing, whether it is
food, or we have seen diapers for babies, we have seen strollers for children, everything that could be, that families in need could possibly
need, has been brought out to the point where some of these community centers have to say, look, no more. We can't store any more of this. We
have everything we can handle.
In that case, what has happened here is the volunteers, instead of bringing donations, are trying to organize those in the packages that can be handed
out to many of the families that now find themselves homeless, find themselves without anything that they lost,
everything that they had in that fire. This is where rebuilding, or the beginning of trying to get back on their feet begins, with, as you pointed out, the outpouring of support from
If the city is sometimes anonymous, it certainly is not here as the whole city has rallied around what happened at the Granfell Tower.
But Richard, let me talk about a different aspect of this, because we have had a chance to look at some of the the flyers, some of the faces of the
missing, and that is still a very tragic aspect of what is happening here, especially as the city, the authorities, the fire brigade, have not yet put
a definitive number on how many died in this fire.
We know it is 17, but we also know we expect it to rise. And the fire authorities have said if there are any more survivors inside that building,
it will be nothing short of a miracle. Yet there are still families holding out hope. And we have spoken with a number of them hoping that
perhaps their loved one, whether it is their daughter or their sister, is unconscious in
a hospital simplywaiting to come to, waiting to say, here I am, I'm OK.
Those families, until they have a final number on how many have perished in this fire, are still
clinging to hope. And, in fact, just a moment ago I saw two people wearing a shirt with the face of Jessica Urbana (ph), she is one of the missing,
one of the faces we have seen here where people want answers. That is still a very tragic part of this story, Richard.
QUEST: Oren Liebermann, who will be following that in the hours ahead. And we are waiting to hear from Sadiq Khan, the London mayor. That will
take place just behind me. It doesn't look like it's imminent, at least there's Oren Liebermann is following that in the hours ahead.
And we are waiting to hear from Sadiq Khan, the London mayor. That will take place behind me. It doesn't look like it's imminent, at least there's
no sign of any sort of police congregating for such a media conference.
Locals are expressing outrage over this lives lost and the fire and whether this tragedy could have been prevented, as we continue our coverage we'd
also look at the other news that's making headlines today.
There's a bombshell report in Washington, a special counsel's Russia investigation apparently has now reached the oval office. The news never
stops. This is CNN.
CURNOW: You're watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow in Atlanta. Welcome back.
Of course, we're monitoring the situation in London. And we'll go straight back there if Sadiq
Khan comes out and speaks to the press.
In the meantime, I do want to update you on some other stories that are making headlines here at CNN. Authorities in Eastern China are
investigating a horrific blast outside the gates of a kindergarten.
We blurred some of the pictures, but still they are disturbing. State media said at least seven people were killed, more than 60 others injured.
Local officials say no children or teachers are among the dead, but the images posted on social media we can see that some children were definitely
hurt in that blast. Investigators are still trying to determine that (inaudible).
And now to reports of a major turning point in the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia. The Washington Post says
President Donald Trump himself is now being investigated for possible obstruction of Justice.
Mr. Trump is already firing back on Twitter. He wrote, "they made up a phony collusion with the Russians story." He continued that they had found
zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story.
Well, Athena Jones has more now on how the investigation took this dramatic new turn.
[08:20:07] ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A bombshell development in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. "The
Washington Post" reporting that Mueller is now investigating President Trump for possible obstruction of justice. The president's firing of FBI
director James Comey propelling the expansion of the probe.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, "You know, this Russia thing with Trump and
Russia is a made-up story."
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: There's no doubt that it's a fair judgment, it's my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia
JONES: This development coming after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested Tuesday the special counsel may be looking into Comey's firing.
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I can assure you that, if Director Mueller believes that that is relevant to his investigation, he has full
authority to investigate that and to make any appropriate findings.
JONES: Sources tell CNN, Mueller is planning to interview several of the nation's top intelligence chiefs, including director of national
intelligence Dan Coats; NSA Director Mike Rogers; and Rogers' former deputy, Richard Ledgett. Sources say Ledgett wrote a memo, documenting a
conversation in which President Trump reportedly urged Rogers to encourage the FBI to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation.
Neither Rogers nor Coats would discuss their conversations with the president in a Senate hearing last week.
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Why are you not answering our questions?
MIKE ROGERS, NSA DIRECTOR: I feel it is inappropriate.
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I'm not sure I have a legal basis.
JONES: Although Coats did make this comment about his three-plus-year career as head of the NSA.
COATS: I've never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in the political way or in relationship to the ongoing
JONES: President Trump's personal attorney, in a statement last night, did not deny that the president is under investigation. Instead focusing on
leakers, writing, "The FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal."
This statement is identical to a bullet list of talking points issued by the Republican Party obtained by CNN. President Trump has already expressed
his willingness to talk to Mueller.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of those events?
TRUMP: One hundred percent.
JONES: Athena Jones, CNN, the White House.
CURNOW: Well, let's get the very latest now from the White House. Dan Merica is standing by.
Tell us more about this report and the president's reaction. And we also, of course, monitoring a
conversation that he's having now in the White House in the Roosevelt Room. He hasn't mentioned this, yet, but he certainly - you know, people are
monitoring to see if he's going to say anything.
DAN MERICA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What you really have here is kind of a dual-screen presidency. While the White House would like to focus on what
the president is doing right now, talking about apprenticeships and an issue that, in fact, Democrats could get behind, the idea that you need to
train workers for the jobs that are available, not the jobs that they necessarily think they want.
That's what they'd like to focus on and they did this last week as well trying to talk about infrastructure. But what you have this week is yet
another example, probably the clearest sign yet, that the investigation of Robert Mueller is leading is getting itself into the Oval Office to the
president. And that is complicating all of what the White House is trying to do. And if you talk to people who have worked in a White House, that
have been under investigation in the past, namely the Bill Clinton White House, they'll say that these kind of investigations that start as one
thing and go into something else, really change the way the White House works.
And what the Washington Post reported yesterday, according to five officials, Robert Mueller is now looking at Donald Trump for obstruction of
justice. We confirm, we at CNN confirm, that interviews are going to start as soon as this week about that exact topic with three top intelligence
officials. All of this is complicating what the White House is trying to do and make it difficult for them, not only just to work with Democrats,
but to work with Republicans as well.
CURNOW: So the question is what is next? In many ways, you say they're worried about this constant stream of news and the fact that it overshadows
exactly what the president is trying to announce now.
But what next?
MERICA: Well, you heard Donald Trump on Twitter. He has taken to Twitter after all these stories to respond. And again, like he has before, he
called this a phony story and said it was, said it was one of the largest political witch hunts in history.
His response is going to be something like that. You're going to see him take to Twitter, I would imagine, for the next series of stories that come
out about this topic.
What the White House is trying to do is trying to say we are not focused on these stories and
pivot and send those questions to Mr. Trump's outside counsel. Yesterday, they decried leaks that were coming out of the White House - excuse me,
coming out of the FBI, but what the White House is struggling to do is to get ahead of this, to get on top of these stories that are coming out,
because it is overshadowing what they are trying to do.
The president, the president is set to travel and to make some announcements tomorrow, but it's
unclear whether that will break through the news of this widening probe into the president himself.
CURNOW: Dan Merica keeping an eye on all that there at the White House. Thank you for joining us.
Now, Russian President Vladimir Putin talked about James Comey, the former FBI director, today in his annual televised call-in program. He said the
fired FBI director didn't offer any proof that Russia interfered in the U.S. election, and he compared Comey to U.S. National Security Agency
contractor who leaked intelligence secrets in 2013.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): What makes the FBI director different from Mr. Snowden then? It seems to me that in this case
it's not so much the head of the FBI as an activist with his own particular point of view.
By the way, if he faces some sort of prosecution for this, we're prepared to give him political asylum, too. He should know that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: President Putin there.
Well, the Ohio hospital treating an American student freed by North Korea says Otto Warmbier suffered a severe neurological injury. Warmbier was
found guilty of committing a hostile act against North Korea last March and sentenced to 15 years hard labor. His family says he soon fell into a
coma. He was finally freed earlier this week, North Korea says on humanitarian grounds, but his father says he was lured into North Korea by
a slick online ads from a travel agency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRED WARMBIER, FATHER OF FREED AMERICAN STUDENT: So Otto is a young thrill-seeking great kid who was going to be in that part of the world for
a college experience and said, hey, I've heard some friends who have done this, I would like to do this. So we agreed to let him do that.
They lure Americans, and then they take them hostage, and then they do things to them. And that's what happened to my son. He was taken hostage
at the airport as he was trying to leave the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Miguel Marquez joins me now from Cincinnati, Ohio, where Otto's father gave those statements to the media. It was an extraordinary press
conference in many ways. He spoke about being brutalized and terrorized, and also at the same time we got that information about Otto's condition.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean, what was interesting is how he parsed words. He basically said that his son was brutalized and
terrorized, that's a line they have said throughout all of this incident.
He also said that he did not buy the North Koreans versions of events, that his son fell ill with botulism and then took a sleeping pill. He said it
just doesn't make sense, but stopped short of saying that there was any sort of physical trauma to his son, Otto Warmbier.
I can tell you here in Wyoming, Ohio, just outside of Cincinnati, the ribbons around the trees, blue and white ribbons throughout all the
neighborhoods here surrounding the school where they held the press conference today, people lined part of the route where the family went
home. It is just coming as a shock that this young 22-year-old was taken prisoner by North Korea, charged with hostile acts and hasn't been seen for
the last 15 months. It has come as a much greater shock to the family and this community. Just a week ago, they found out that all this time that
they hadn't heard from their son, seen their son, he was in a coma - Robyn.
CURNOW: Yeah, so his father said his mom was with him at the hospital. They were trying to keep him comfortable. We also know that the hospital
is going to give more details on his medical condition beyond the fact that we know he had a severe neurological trauma. And that's going to happen in
the next few hours.
What is also interesting about his father's comments was that he kind of was critical of the
previous U.S. administration and was very thankful to U.S. President Donald Trump, giving details of a telephone call.
MARQUEZ: Yeah, he was very critical of the previous administration, saying that President Trump called last night about 10:00 p.m. just to say - see
how the family was doing, say how he's pulling for them and hopes that everything turns out all right, that there is no exchange of information.
It was just the president calling him to have a basically a normal conversation with an American citizen about how their son is doing after
this extraordinary event.
He also said in response to several questions asked about how he got out, did the last administration do enough? And he turned to the camera and
just sort of dead panned, and I think the result today tells the entire story, meaning that Donald Trump and his administration were able to get
their son out while the Obama administration was not.
He did ask the North Koreans to release all Americans today but had very, very harsh words for them calling them a pariah state, saying that they
brutalized his son, and now we are looking for answers.
The question on whether or not his son suffered some sort of physical injury or was there a stroke or something that stopped blood to the brain,
that is the big question for the hospital today. It is not clear how much brain activity there is right now, that is something we hope the hospital
will be able to clear up later today - Robyn.
[11:30:06] CURNOW: Yeah, all very sad. Thanks so much. Miguel Marquez there.
Well, just ahead here on CNN, we'll return to our coverage of that horrific fire, an inferno in London. We'll give you the latest developments and how
the people of West London are rallying around the victims and their responders. Richard Quset joins us again after the break. Stay with us.
[11:32:51] QUEST: You're watching CNN in London. Welcome back to our coverage of
our top story. The death toll in the London fire officially it has risen to 17. And the city's fire commissioner warns it will take weeks of
painstaking work before all the victims can be accounted for.
London is working to help the victims of the Granfell Tower fire. And there is also now a rising message of outrage as questions start to be
asked over how this newly renovated tower turned into an inferno so quickly with no easy escape.
CNN's Erin McLaughlin has those details.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A massive fire in West London had caught hold in a 24-story tower block that housed hundreds of
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard shouting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's getting bigger and bigger. What's going on here? I go to the front door. I see this fireball. I open the door, see what's
going on. The neighbors are running out. People are screaming there's a fire. People are screaming, get out of the block, get out of the block.
Half of the block was ablaze by the time it got done. And it was spreading like wildfire.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As soon as I run out, I see already the fire all on one side. Inside, we didn't know what's going on. Because nothing came
inside. No water, no nothing. It was very shocking.
MCLAUGHLIN: 40 fire engines and 200 firefighters battled through the night to bring the blaze under control. Firefighters say they had never
experienced anything like it.
UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: I have never seen a fire of this nature before. It's a completely unprecedented nature. It will call for further
investigation quite clearly.
SADIQ KHAN, LONDON MAYOR: This is extremely depressing and devastating. Again, I say my thoughts and prayers, as I'm sure the thoughts and prayers
of the entire country are with the family and friends of those in the building, affected by this tragic and horrific fire.
MCLAUGHLIN: Witnesses described the chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just horrific. It's so awful to see. I'm watching people at the windows, waving, and shouting for help and screaming. And
then just see them engulf in smoke. And not knowing whether they were going to be safe or not. Or be able to get out. It was just horrible to see. Sad.
We felt completely helpless. We just couldn't do anything.
[11:35:28] MCLAUGHLIN: As politicians expressed their sorrow, families were evacuated to local community centers. Scores of people are being treated in
hospitals across London. Many of them still in critical condition.
The fire is now under control. But the fear is that the death toll will continue to rise.
Erin McLaughlin, CNN, London.
QUEST: Oren Lieberman is with me. Oren is the other side of the tower from where I am.
And Oren, the people I've been talking to over here, everybody has still a story of somebody's missing, somebody who knew somebody who was in the
building who is now not accounted for. And I think I just want to focus on that for a second before we talk about the scale of the assistance.
From where you are, are you hearing many people say that there are lots of people still unaccounted for?
LIEBERMANN: Yes, absolutely. We have spoken with a number of different families or friends, or as you point out, somebody who knew somebody who is
Now, what is tremendous is that many of these families are still holding out hope that there is
some information out there that somehow their loved one, whether it's a daughter or a sister or another family member or a cousin, we have heard
cousins as well, somehow made it out of the fire in the confusion and is perhaps at a hospital, perhaps unconscious, or simply not able to
communicate. That is the hope there all holding on to right now. And it has to be said that is a miracle they're hoping for as we pass 36 hours
since the fire.
We've seen multiple families and some friends going around with flyers that have pictures of the missing as well as phone numbers and emails for
contact and putting them everywhere. There's a flyer you'll see of Jessica Robano (ph), and that is all over the streets here. It's some way of
And all of this goes back to the first minutes after the fire, those early minutes as this fire spreads so quickly as the smoke spreads so quickly
throughout the 24 story Grenfell Tower, and created confusion. That, in talking to people, is where the separations happen.
There were some phone calls in the early hours - in the early minutes, I should say, after the fire started spreading and then nothing. And that's
the worst fear there, that there was nothing after that whether it's somebody standing on a floor that they said was getting hot or feeling the
heat build around them, that's the fear.
And yet, Richard, it has to be said, there are still families holding out hope here that their loved ones may still be alive.
QUEST: Oren, just briefly before we leave you, can you just tell me what the people were seeing behind you, what's happening there? What's going
LIEBERMANN: Well, this is just part of the staggering amount of donations that have been brought in. This is one of three community centers we have
visited throughout the day as well as a church and a mosque where these donations are simply pouring in. Now the challenge is not getting more
here, they have as much as they can handle whether clothing or food or any other supplies. Now the challenge is organizing it, and that's exactly
what many of these volunteers are doing.
After this fire, there was an incredible outpouring of support that very much continues here as now the volunteers are helping to make sure this is
packaged in such a way that it can go to all the people who now find themselves homeless without anything that they had that was lost in that
This is the silver lining to all this, the outpouring of support after this fire.
QUEST: Oren, stay with me if you'll be as kind for a moment, because I think the mayor is about to arrive, or at least we believe it's quite
imminent. So we may as well continue to talk, Oren. the issue, the issue that the mayor has to address as you see it, and as the people who have been talking to you and the people who have been with
you, the issue is what?
LIEBERMANN: Well, there are two sources of frustration and anger, and these have certainly bubbled up and grown ever since the fire started early
last morning. One of those is the lack of information about where the missing are and how many are missing and how many are missing.
Now, it has to be said that that's still a very difficult question to answer simply because of the condition of the building and the condition of
whatever is left in that building. The question of how many people died in this fire, which stands right now at 17, a final number isn't yet possible.
But most of the frustration, and we hear it not only from residents of the building who made it out, but also from neighbors was what condition was
this this building in and what effect did the refurbishment have on the safety of the building.
We spoke yesterday with a former leader of the resident's association. And he raised concerns that we'd heard echoed throughout the morning and we
continue to hear echoed. Simply, was the building safe? From what we are hearing, there was one exit stairwell. If that was compromised, many
people didn't have a way out. And what about the evacuation plan? Many people, as we're told, were told to stay inside of their apartments. There
were questions about a sprinkler system that perhaps was or was not there. It certainly seems from those we've spoken to that it wasn't working. And
then was there a fire alarm? Where was that?
All of that needs to be answered. And the lack of answers there and the concerns that none of this was ready to go in place beforehand, that's
where the anger comes in.
QUEST: Oren Liebermanm who is on the other side of Grenfell Tower from me. Oren, thank you.
Survivors and witnesses have praised the firefighters for how quickly and efficiently they
reacted to the fire. The fire brigade unions warned the service has been compromised because of government cuts.
Gareth Beaton is the Union chairman. Good to see you, sir.
Before we get to the nitty-gritty if you like - two things, first of all, I apologize if I have to stop because the mayor is about to speak.
GARETH BEATON, FIRE BRIGADE UNION CHAIRMAN: OK.
QUEST: You know, your members who did such incredible life-saving, literally, work, the other night.
BEATON: Yeah. I mean, what I saw was uncomprehensible really. The firefighters came and didn't expect to see anything of this gravitas. So
it is an event of extraordinary nature.
QUEST: You have been critical of the cuts made to the fire service, to the regulatory authorities. Now, obviously, one doesn't make party political
issues at a time like this, but your point would be that these are serious cuts that we're now seeing the evidence of that.
BEATON: I think the moment the fire services being cut over the last years, we have lost 10,000 firefighters across the country in London.
Under the Boris Johnson, the mayor at the time, we lost 27 appliances, 10 fire stations, and fire - 500-plus firefighters. I mean, but the...
QUEST: How would that have made a difference? I mean, on a situation like this, to put
it bluntly, you had everything you needed to throw at this sort of thing. So is there an element of, would a few firefighters have made a difference?
BEATON: It's the ongoing after effects and the effects of the cuts to the counselors and the well-being service of the fire service in London. For
the London fire brigade had four counselors at one point and now we are down to two counselors.
So, the after care of the firefighters after seeing these traumatic events and how we care for firefighters, their mental state of health following
that have been taken back and cut down to two counselors from 14 is obviuosly going to have an effect.
QUEST: The other question, of course, is this idea of the advice to stay in your, stay in your apartments and to stay in your flat. And look, I've
lived in high-rise buildings in New York most of my adult life. The advice has always been the same: if there's a fire in the building, you're betting
off staying where you are, because the fire below is -- it in a properly constructed concrete building isn't likely to reach you.
BEATON: That's right. And I think it has to be looked at, at the ongoing additional works that were carried out on this building and they have to be
investigated. The Prime Minister Theresa May has come out and said there will be afull public inquiry. and I think that's something that needs to be
QUEST: But this the idea that people should need to stay in their apartments - I'm not being made of this as if this was some sort of
revolutionary, or perhaps outdated, it is the orthodoxy in a high-rise building where your ladders can't get to the top.
QUEST: The best advice is to stay put.
BEATON: It is to stay put and let the firefighters come in and tackle the fire directly, but the nature of this fire was unprecedented. We haven't
seen anything of this nature before. It went up the outside of the building, it went down the outside of the building, and it is just rapidly
escalated within 30 minutes.
QUEST: What does that tell you?
BEATON: It tells us that there is something else involved.
QUEST: I mean, there obviously has to be some sort of accelerant involved.
BEATON: Yes, absolutely.
QUEST: That enabled what should have been a serious but manageable incident to turn into a calamity of unfathomable proportions.
BEATON: Absolutely. And it needs to be looked at and what the additional works were that
were took on the building, and what was done, the cladding, the insulation that was put on the outside of the building, and how it has made that
effect on what it did.
QUEST: Does it annoy you or frustrate I think might be a better word, when the contractors say, listen, we followed every regulation. Everything that
was put in that building was monitored and regulated. There was nothing.
BEATON: I think it all has to be examined and maybe the regulations will need to be examined as well, at a later stage.
QUEST: Is there - I use this term very advisedly - is there any suggest of arson?
[11:45:03] BEATON: I'm not aware of that at all, no.
QUEST: So, it's...
BEATON: I have not been aware or made aware of anything like that, no.
QUEST: And as we move on to talk about your members, what are -- just that, the wind changes, you got it as well, didn't you. Just to put this
in perspective, the wind suddenly changes and you get a -- the acrid - the back of the throat from that. And that will continue for many days.
BEATON: It will. It's just going to be a massively protracted incident with my members being involved for a long, long time. It's still looking
at various parts of the building and getting into various parts of the building. It's going to be a very, very protracted incident.
QUEST: After something like this, the post-traumatic stress that your members will suffer, I mean, they are used to going into burning
buildings, that's the raison d'etre that they're used to, but this is on a different league.
BEATON: IT is. It's a totally different scale. And you think the 65 casualties were rescued in the course of the night by FBU members. That's
an unprecedented amount of casualties to be rescued. And the sights that they saw, no one can envision you're going to see that.
QUEST: Sir, thank you very much.
BREATON: Thank you.
QUEST: (inaudible) talk about that. Thank you very much. We very much appreciate it.
And the thoughts of the work that your colleagues did on the night.
So let me just -- before we hear some more accounts of what has been happening, it is probably worth us pausing while I bring you up-to-date
with what we know and what we have seen and what I'm expecting is going to happen in the next few minutes or 10 minutes or so.
We now know that up to - that 17 people are confirmed to have been killed in the Grenfell Tower behind me in the fire, but just about everybody you
speak to says that number is likely, is going to rise. And the magnitude of that rise could be anything from the low numbers to the dozens and some
people even suggesting triple figures, because 50 percent of the building has yet to be even examined, let alone forensically searched the nature of
We are expecting the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan - he was due to speak about an hour ago. Then we heard it was going to be 4:00, now it is coming
up to a quarter to 5:00. When that happens, that's going to happen just over my shoulder there where you can see the other reporters. We have a
camera. In fact, the other picture you're looking at there is the camera where you will hear the mayor when he speaks.
Now, right the way down the street at the end there where there is the church, there's the church, there's the community center. You can't really
see it,we lose the banner - there we go, thank you. You can see the group of people at the end of that street. That's where the mayor has been
visiting first responders. He's been visiting those people who have been displaced, those people without homes. He's been visiting a shelter.
It is an extraordinary event, one that will have ramifications, not just in the British capital, but will also have lessons learned for every high-
rise, every community and every city from where these buildings are.
We'll have more after the break. This is CNN.
[11:51:37] CURNOW: Thank you for joining us. You're watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow. Welcome back.
And in a rare show of unity, Democrats and Republicans say congressional baseball game will go on as planned tonight in the U.S. capital. Now, this
comes as investigators learn more about the gunmen who opened fire at a baseball practice Wednesday for that game, critically wounding a Republican
congressman and many others. Alex Marquardt has all the details from Virginia.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The chilling sound of a barrage of gunfire captured in this cell phone video.
MARQUARDT: Sixty-six-year-old James Hodgkinson, an ardent critic of President Trump, unleashing a hail of bullets on Republican lawmakers who
were practicing on the eve of a charity baseball game. The Congressman targeted on the field scrambling to take cover.
REP. RODNEY DAVIS (R), ILLINOIS: Somebody on the field yelling, "Run, he's got a gun." I ran into the dugout, like most people on the field.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via phone): Units arrived to 400 East and Monroe. Shots being fired, and there are people running. Possibly victims involved.
MARQUARDT: The lone gunman, who was armed with a rifle and .9 mm handgun, exchanging fire with Capitol Police officers who were there to protect the
House majority whip, Steve Scalise. Local police joining in the ten-minute firefight to take down the attacker.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via phone): We have one in custody, one shooter. There's also a victim down in the baseball field.
MARQUARDT: Scalise was on second base when he was shot in his left hip.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: He dragged himself, after he was shot, from near second base about 10 or 15 yards into the field just to be, I think, a
little further away from the gunman.
MARQUARDT: Four others also wounded in the attack. Witnesses now praising the heroic actions of law enforcement in preventing further casualties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw at least two of them go towards the shooter. They were putting their lives directly in the line of fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the Capitol Police that saved us all.
MARQUARDT: Authorities say the gunman drove from Illinois to Virginia in March and had been living out of a white cargo van, spending much of his
time at this YMCA, adjacent to the ball field, where he was seen the morning of the ambush.
REP. JEFF DUNCAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He asked me if this team was the Republican or Democrat team practicing. I responded that it was the
Republican team practicing, and he proceeded to shoot Republicans. Take that for what it's worth.
MARQUARDT: The attacker's online posts show a hatred of President Trump and Republicans. Hodgkinson writing on Facebook in March, "Trump is a traitor.
Trump has destroyed our democracy. It's time to destroy Trump and company."
A month earlier, "Republicans are the Taliban of the USA." A family member of the attacker telling "The New York Times" saying he came to Washington
in recent weeks to protest Trump.
The gunman also liked a political cartoon suggesting that Congressman Scalise should be fired, although it's unclear if Scalise was specifically
targeted in the attack.
Alex Marquardt, CNN, Alexandria, Virginia.
CURNOW: Thanks, Alex, for that report.
You're watching CNN. Much more news after the break. Stay with us.
[11:56:22] QUEST: As we come to the end of this hours, let me tell you that we are expecting the mayor of London, Saqid Khan here any time now to
give a press briefing on the current state of affairs as relates to the Grenfell Tower fire.
I'm Richard Quest in London.
And I'm Robyn Curnow in Atlanta.
We'll both be back with more news after this short break. Stay with us. Thanks for watching.