The Salvation Army, which has today been helping victims of the major fire at Grenfell Tower in west London, has launched an appeal in response to what it says is the 'overwhelming' offer of assistance from the British public.
The appeal comes as churches from across the area came together to help victims of the fire, which killed at least six people and rendered 20 more critically injured, with the death toll expected to climb.
Some 74 people are in hospital following the blaze, which could still be seen burning the tower block this afternoon, as Christian Today reported earlier.
Local residents and church leaders have expressed concerns and anger over warnings that were allegedly ignored by the authorities about the state of the building before the fire struck.
This morning, volunteers mobilised two of the Salvation Army's London-based emergency response vehicles, arriving at the scene at 3am following a request to support the coordinated effort from the London fire service. They continue to support well over 500 members of emergency service crews including firefighters and the ambulance service.
The Salvation Army said that it expects that at least one of its emergency response vans, manned by experienced volunteers and stocked with refreshments and food, will remain on site at Grenfell Towers until tomorrow and possibly Friday. They will be offering emotional support to all emergency service crews and providing guidance to members of the public looking for places of rest and safety.
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army's corps in Notting Hill (205 Portobello Road, W11 1LU) is now open as a centre for members of the public who are concerned about family and friends. The centre will be operated by a team of Salvation Army volunteers.
Donations to the appeal will help the Salvation Army continue to operate its emergency response, which supports emergency service crews day and night. Donations will help to stock its vehicles with food and drink, support volunteers and help keep centres open to the public in times of emergency.
Captain Ruth Gray, who with her husband Karl, has been co-ordinating the Salvation Army's emergency response on the ground, said: 'We have an understanding with the fire brigade, who asked us to come and support at this tragic incident that happened early this morning.
'We drove to Shoreditch Fire Station, where our emergency response van is located, and that is permanently stocked with food – chocolate bars, crisps and cans of pop. We picked up items for sandwiches on the way from local shops so that we can support the emergency services and anyone at the incident who needs our help.
'It is horrendous. I have never seen anything this tragic. People are really glad to have someone be kind and offer them a cup of tea, someone who is just prepared to listen to them."
Major Paul Scott, Salvation Army officer at Notting Hill, added: 'The community spirit is wonderful. Right from when it happened straight away it was amazing to see the community springing into action. We are now one of four reception centres – we are specifically open for families in need offering teas, coffees and snacks. We have been inundated with people bringing us donations for those who have been affected by this dreadful tragedy.'
Gray asked that people keep those affected by this incident in their prayers. She said: 'People have witnessed things they would rather have never seen. People can pray for the people who will provide long-term support. People have been made homeless, their homes have gone and how people deal with that I don't know. We pray that people find hope in a really horrendous situation. We pray for those who have lost loved ones. And we pray for the emergency services who continue to work so tirelessly.'
The Salvation Army runs a number of emergency response teams across the UK, which offer support to the emergency services with on-site refreshment and emotional support. The Salvation Army's emergency response vehicles attend between 170-200 call-outs per year.