West London

    Six people dead and many injured in Grenfell Tower blaze

    A huge fire broke out at a west London tower block during the early hours of Wednesday morning. As reports coming in six people have died and more than 50 are in hospital after a huge fire raged through the night at a west London tower block, a fire chief says.

    Eyewitnesses described people trapped in the burning Grenfell Tower, in north Kensington, screaming for help and yelling for their children to be saved.

    The 24-storey block, which is still believed to be on fire, looks at risk of collapsing.

    During the night, eyewitnesses said they saw lights - thought to be mobile phones or torches - flashing at the top of the block of flats, and trapped residents coming to their windows - some holding children.

    Image credit: Wilson Chowdry

    The Met Police has set up an emergency number on 0800 0961 233 for anyone concerned about friends or family.

    London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said there had been "a number of fatalities" but she could not say how many because of the "size and complexity" of the building.

    “In my 29 years of being a firefighter I have never seen anything of this scale. Based on the level of resources needed at this fire, we declared this a major incident very early this morning.” She said

    She urged all residents to make sure they had reported themselves to police so that the authorities know they are safe.

    The cause was not yet known and it was too early to speculate on the building, she said, although it was structurally safe enough for her crews to be working inside.

    By mid-morning, the building looked to be just smoking ruins but the fire has again taken hold, and cladding is falling to the ground.

    Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was devastated by the horrific scenes, attended by more than 250 firefighters and 100 ambulance medics.

    Questions will need to be answered over the safety of tower blocks, he told BBC Radio.

    "We can't have a situation where people's safety is put at risk because of bad advice being given or if it is the case, as has been alleged, of tower blocks not being properly serviced or maintained," he said.

    Matt Wrack, of the Fire Brigades Union said something had clearly gone badly wrong with fire prevention procedures at the building.

    Firefighters would normally fight a fire in a tower block from the inside, going up the fire escape, and fighting using the internal dry-rising mains, he said, but that's not been possible in this case.

    Image credit: Wilson Chowdry

    "Several hundred" people would have been in the block when the fire broke out, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Borough Nick Paget-Brown said.

    Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, Wilson Chowdhry travelled to the blaze to offer help and bottles of water to victims.

    He told Asian Standard: "When I got there the police cordons had not yet been fully implemented. I was able to reach victims and offer them water from the two crates that had been in my home.

    "People were crying in the streets they were all shocked and stunned. Those that spoke described very harrowing accounts of how people escaped the flats. Many told me that they had not heard any fire alarm.

    "People heard bangs and pops as the fire raged on. Most people learnt about the fire through kind but panicked neighbours who woke them up with vigorous knocking. One man told me the fire began from one of the lower levels but rapidly rose and engulfed the building.

    "Many people were still looking for friends and family it was a very disturbing place. This situation was exacerbated as people fleeing the blaze left their phones behind.

    "The fire just raged on and all of us were praying that the building would not collapse as it is in the midst of a densely populated area.”

    An emergency number has been set up by The Met Police Anyone concerned about their family and friends can call 0800 0961 233 for anyone concerned about friends or family.

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    The British Asian Trust partners with the British Pakistan Foundation to host Iftar dinner at the Savoy Hotel

    The British Asian Trust, founded by HRH The Prince of Wales, held a special Iftar Dinner at The Savoy Hotel in London on Tuesday 6 June in partnership with the British Pakistan Foundation. The event brought together influential leaders from diverse backgrounds including government, philanthropy, business, charity and the arts to celebrate the contributions that so many make to transforming lives and strengthening relations across the UK, Pakistan and beyond.

    The evening opened with Richard Hawkes, CEO, British Asian Trust paying tribute to the victims and families of the tragic attacks in London and Manchester, calling for people of all faiths and backgrounds to stand together in solidarity. The famous ‘spirit of Manchester’ inspired the sense of community and unity of the Iftar Dinner, which brought together people with a shared commitment to tackling poverty and injustice.

    The event saw the launch of The Trust’s Ramadan appeal to raise funds to expand its ground-breaking livelihoods and education work in Pakistan which is helping children access quality education and supporting families to find a route out of poverty. The Trust also talked about its exciting multi-million pound, three year Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development following a successful appeal last year. This programme will work with seven partners to support 12,000 women.

    His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales sent a special Ramadan message, read by Chairman of British Asian Trust, Manoj Badale, wishing supporters and friends of The Trust a very warm Ramadan Mubarak. The full transcript of his message can be found here:  https://goo.gl/xF7fC8

    Richard Hawkes said: “Ramadan is a remarkable time for showing strength and discipline, but also it is an incredible time for generosity and charitable giving. The kind donations that we receive enable us to secure a brighter future for Pakistan’s most vulnerable children and their families and empowering women to make a living and have control over their earnings.”

    Zahra Shah, CEO, British Pakistan Foundation said: “We are honoured to support the British Asian Trust and to join hands for the annual Iftar to bring together like-minded individuals from the community to help and assist those who need it most both here in the UK and in Pakistan.”

    Richard Hawkes, CEO, British Asian Trust

    Hosted by The Trust Ambassador and BBC presenter, Noreen Khan, the Iftar Dinner included a speech by guest of honour Right Honourable Priti Patel, Secretary of State for International Development.

    Other notable guests included His Excellency Syed Ibne Abbas, High Commissioner for Pakistan, award-winning music producer Naughty Boy, broadcaster Sonali Shah, and Sir Anwar Pervez OBE, Founder and Chair of Bestway Group UK.

    The British Asian Trust works across South Asia to eradicate inequality and injustice. In previous years, funds raised during Ramadan have supported important work in Pakistan by helping people with mental health issues, supporting children from the poorest communities get access to quality education and helping young entrepreneurs from disadvantaged backgrounds to start new businesses.

    The British Pakistan Foundation is a bi-partisan, secular, community building, non-profit platform founded in 2010 working towards engaging, uniting and empowering the community of over 1.2 million British Pakistanis in the UK, in particular the youth. Its key focus is on professional development and supporting entrepreneurship.

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    British Asian Trust partners with British Pakistan Foundation this Ramadan

    The British Asian Trust, a charity founded by HRH The Prince of Wales, is celebrating the start of Ramadan by partnering with the British Pakistan Foundation, forging an exciting new relationship that highlights each organisations’ shared commitment to transforming lives and strengthening relations between the UK and Pakistan, and beyond. The partnership will be officially launched at The Trust’s annual Celebratory Iftar Dinner, at London’s Savoy Hotel on Tuesday 6 June.

    The collaboration demonstrates the British Asian Trust’s goal to bring together people of all backgrounds to celebrate the charitable contributions that so many make to support important causes. The event is supported by the British Asian Trust UK Advisory Council members Zameer Choudrey, CEO Bestway and Haroon Sheikh, CEO Caretech, and will be attended by a range of NGOs, charities, philanthropists, business and community leaders, with The Right Honourable Priti Patel, Secretary of State for International Development as a key guest. Other confirmed guests include international music producer Naughty Boy and the event will be compered by national radio presenter Noreen Khan.

    Richard Hawkes, CEO British Asian Trust said: “We are delighted to partner with the British Pakistan Foundation and work with them to bring people together who share a commitment to empowering people to realise their full potential. It is the invaluable relationship we share with our supporters that allows us to back innovative, scalable and lasting solutions to the challenges of poverty.”

    The British Pakistan Foundation is a bi-partisan, secular, community building, non-profit platform founded in 2010 working towards engaging, uniting and empowering the community of over one million British Pakistanis in the UK, in particular the youth.

    Zahra Shah, CEO, British Pakistan Foundation said: “The British Pakistan Foundation is committed to empowering the British Pakistani community by focusing on professional development across industry sectors and career levels (since one in five British Pakistani is unemployed or under-employed) and supporting entrepreneurship. We are honoured to support the British Asian Trust and to join hands for the annual Iftar to bring together like-minded individuals from the community who need our help and assistance both here in the UK and in Pakistan.”

    The British Asian Trust works across South Asia to eradicate inequality and injustice. This year, the British Asian Trust’s work in Pakistan includes a new multi-million three year Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development. The programme will work with seven partners to support 12,000 women to learn the skills they need to make a living and have greater control over their earnings.

    In the past, funds raised during Ramadan have supported important work in Pakistan by helping children from the poorest communities access quality education and giving them the building blocks for a brighter future. Zakat donations have enabled young people to complete their education at sixth form level and obtain scholarships to Habib University. Families are also supported in multiple ways, including funding and mentoring for young entrepreneurs and equipping them with materials and opportunities to start news businesses.

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    Sadiq Khan to launch inquiry into foreign property ownership

    The mayor of London Sadiq Khan has pledged to launch the UK’s most comprehensive inquiry into the impact of foreign investment on London’s housing market.

    Khan says he will commission the most thorough research on this matter ever undertaken in Britain – the biggest look of its kind at this issue, “so we can figure out exactly what can be done.”

    He insisted there are “real concerns” about the surge in the number of homes being bought by overseas investors, adding that the inquiry would map the scale of the problem for the first time.

    “It’s clear we need to better understand the different roles that overseas money plays in London’s housing market, the scale of what’s going on, and what action we can take to support development and help Londoners find a home,” Khan told the Guardian.

    Earlier this year, it was revealed how a 50-storey block of 214 luxury apartments by the river Thames in Vauxhall was more than 60% owned by foreign buyers. In one of the starkest examples of the impact of foreign investment, it found that a quarter of the flats were held by companies in secretive offshore tax havens, and many were unoccupied.

    In China, experts predict the current scale of global investment in UK property could rise significantly over the next decade, with a “new wave” of middle-class investors from mainland China quadrupling the amount of money flowing annually into foreign real estate – including the UK – to $200bn (£150bn) in the next 10 years.

    Sohaib Hamid of Reeds and Rains, said he expected a major jump in investors looking for a return in Britain, adding: “The UK market, particularly post-Brexit, is really picking up.

    “The interesting thing is that that in many ways the international investment journey is probably just starting … The exciting thing about China and India is that there are many cities with more than a million people. So London is a huge market for them.”

    Critics say the influx of foreign investors is contributing to a housing crisis in the capital. Earlier this week, it emerged that the number of thirtysomethings leaving London has leapt in recent years, as high housing costs have forced people to move out.

    Overseas buyers are also increasingly focusing on towns and cities outside the UK capital – with Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham all identified as “hotspots” as buyers try to get more for their money while avoiding new stamp duty rules.

    Foreign investment has helped drive a fresh property building boom around the UK. Liverpool has received millions of pounds of overseas investment in housing and property in the past five years, including a £200m New Chinatown development that is under construction and is being heavily marketed in China. Earlier this year, Sheffield announced a multibillion pound deal that would generate four or five city-centre projects over the next three years and create “hundreds if not thousands” of jobs in south Yorkshire.

    The Chinese are the biggest buyers of new-build residential accommodation globally, with the Singaporeans second and the British fourth, according to international property agents Knight Frank.

    sadiqkhanwikiKhan said: “We welcome investment from around the world in building new homes, including those for first-time buyers. At the same time, as more and more Londoners struggle to get on the property ladder, there are real concerns about the prospect of a surge in the number of homes being bought by overseas investors.”

    One key aim of the research will be shining a light on who is investing and where the money originates from.

    Khan said: “We urgently need money invested in London property. Londoners need reassuring that dirty money isn’t flooding into our property market, and ministers must now make all property ownership in London transparent so we can see exactly who owns what.”

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    Khan said: “We welcome investment from around the world in building new homes, including those for first-time buyers. At the same time, as more and more Londoners struggle to get on the property ladder, there are real concerns about the prospect of a surge in the number of homes being bought by overseas investors.”

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    Mayor Sadiq Khan appoints deputy mayor for business to safeguard jobs through Brexit fallout

    The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today (29 June) appointed Rajesh Agrawal as his deputy mayor for business.

    Sadiq Khan has tasked Rajesh Agrawal with championing London’s interests following the EU referendum, and protecting jobs and growth while the negotiation process takes place.

    The Mayor is calling for Britain and London to remain part of the European single market, and for the capital to be granted more autonomy in order to safeguard its business interests. This includes greater powers over skills, infrastructure, housing and planning.

    Rajesh Agrawal, a fintech entrepreneur and innovator, is the founder and CEO of Xendpay, an international money transfer service, and RationalFX, an online foreign exchange service - both of which have grown into globally successful businesses.

    Born and brought up in Indore, India, Rajesh arrived in London in 2001, and grew a two-person enterprise working from one small office into a multi-million pound business based in London, with offices in Birmingham, France and Spain.

    Sadiq Khan said: “I’ve pledged to be the most business-friendly Mayor that London has ever had, and it is now more vital than ever that we act robustly from City Hall to protect our economy from the current uncertainty.

    "London must stay in the single market and be given more powers to ensure we can remain competitive, in order to attract the global enterprise that London’s prosperity relies on. Having arrived in London equipped with the ambition to succeed, Rajesh has created a multi-million pound business from scratch and knows first-hand the challenges that our business leaders face, and what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. I know that Rajesh is the best person for the job of protecting jobs and growth in London as we deal with the fallout of the referendum.”

    Rajesh Agrawal said: “Having run my own global businesses, I know how important it is that London remains welcoming to European and international trade. I stepped on a plane for the first time 15 years ago to make the journey to London, and found a city that welcomed me with open arms and didn’t make me feel like a stranger. This openness to talent and enterprise must not change as a result of the referendum.

    “I share Sadiq’s belief that a thriving economy is critical to ensure that all Londoners can share in our great city’s future success. The Mayor and I are determined to build a coalition that ensures the needs of business and financial services are at the fore over the coming months of negotiations with the EU. My first priority will be to listen and engage with businesses, to hear their concerns and deliver reassurance.

    “These are extraordinary times and with this comes clear opportunities to reshape our city’s business landscape. We must champion London’s business at home and abroad, whilst equipping our young people for success, tackling rising business and housing costs and securing critical future infrastructure investment.”

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