The inferno that ripped through the 24-story tower in the small hours of Wednesday morning left at least 17 people dead, dozens in the hospital and many more missing. For devastated locals, some still searching for loved ones, it was emblematic of how they have been abandoned by an uncaring government that spent the last seven years slashing spending on vital services.

"Austerity went up in those flames," said Sarah, a retiree who was born and brought up in London and was going past the area on the tube when she decided to stop and help. "We're not looking at a building, we're looking at a graveyard," added Siobhan, who works with children. The two women, who had just met on Thursday, didn't want to give their surnames.

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