Presumed death toll in London tower blaze rises to 79

19 Jun

London police say that the number of dead or missing in the high-rise apartment building fire is now 79.

Police Commander Stuart Cundy gave the new figure during a statement outside Scotland Yard on Monday. The previous figure given was 58.

“As of this morning, I’m afraid to say there are now 79 people that we believe are either dead or missing and I sadly have to presume are dead,” he said.

Cundy said the new number may change as the investigation continues. He said that the search and recovery operation in the 24-story Grenfell Tower continues, and it has been incredibly distressing for families.

“It’s hard to describe the devastation the fire has caused,” Cundy said, adding that authorities are investigating whether any crimes had been committed in the fire.

He said it had been “incredibly emotional working in there … On Saturday, I went in myself and went to the top floor.”

On Monday, emergency services in London held a minute of silence to remember the people who died in the fire.

Two British officials said Sunday that new exterior cladding used in a renovation of Grenfell Tower may have been banned under UK building regulations.

The UK Prime minister Theresa May has promised to devote more resources to helping members of the community cope and has ordered a full public inquiry into the causes of the blaze. She did not support a proposal put forward by opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party to seize unoccupied properties to rehouse survivors of the fire.

May, who is already facing severe political problems trying to form a government after losing her majority in Parliament in an election on June 8, was heckled when she visited the site and criticised for taking too long to meet with survivors. Residents said the government response was too little, too late.

Up to 600 people lived in the 24-storey building although officials don’t know exactly how many were in it when the fire broke out early Wednesday. Officials say they may never have a precise death toll or be able to identify all of the victims.

The public housing block was home to a wide variety of nationalities, including many originally from the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.

The mixture reflected London’s stature as a magnet for people trying to make a fresh start.

The first officially confirmed victim was a 23-year-old Syrian refugee whose grieving parents said he had come to Britain with ambitions to forge a new life.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2017-06-19