More than 70 still missing and 30 dead in Grenfell Tower fire

Commander Stuart Cundy says death toll likely to rise further as anger mounts over perceived lack of information for residents

Grenfell Tower fire – latest developments

More than 70 people remain unaccounted for after the Grenfell Tower blaze and 30 are confirmed dead, it has been revealed.

Police released updated figures on the deaths on Friday as anger in the community grew over what residents said was a lack of information being released to them. Scores of protesters entered Kensington town hall in the afternoon chanting: “We want justice.”

In a press briefing during which residents shouted their own questions at police and fire service representatives, Metropolitan police commander Stuart Cundy said 30 people have been confirmed dead, including one victim who died in hospital. But he acknowledged that the death toll would increase.

The scale of the disaster came into stark focus as it was revealed for the first time that 70 people are believed to be unaccounted for since the blaze. Police fear the fire was so intense and devastating that some victims may never be identified.

Cundy said 12 bodies were in the mortuary but a number still remained in Grenfell Tower, where a dignified and careful retrieval operation would take place in hazardous conditions. But, he said, this could take many weeks.

He said the victim in hospital had died despite the best efforts of medical staff. At least 24 people are being treated in hospital, 12 are in a critical condition.

Cundy also said he expected the death toll to rise further. “I do believe that sadly the number will rise.

“The building itself is in a very hazardous state. It is going to take a period of time for our specialists, both from the police and from the London fire brigade, to fully search that building to make sure we locate and recover everybody that has sadly perished in that fire. We will be doing that as swiftly as we can.”

Andrea Leadsom challenged on visit to Grenfell Tower

An investigation led by a senior detective from Scotland Yard’s homicide and major crime command is under way with calls for “corporate manslaughter” arrests to be made.

Cundy vowed police “will get to the answer of what has happened and why”, adding: “If criminal offences have been committed it is us who will investigate that.”

The senior officer was heckled by residents who demanded to know why more information had not been released on the numbers missing and identities had not been confirmed.

Addressing anger at the failure of police to release a number of those missing presumed dead, he said: “What is important for me is I will only say something that I know to be true. I know at least 30 people who have died and sadly I do believe those numbers … will increase. As soon as we can we will share that with the families and wider community.”

He said it was difficult to know the numbers missing. Family liaison officers were with 36 families and there was an ongoing process to establish accurate figures.

Met police commander Stuart Cundy
Met police commander Stuart Cundy said it was important to him to only say something he knew to be true. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Everyone in hospital had been identified and their families had been told. Six of the dead were found outside the tower, but the vast majority of bodies remained inside the gutted tower block.

Police have made preliminary identification of six of the dead, one from a passport found by the body, but the process of identification will be lengthy, with DNA, fingerprints and dental records being used to make formal identifications.

Cundy said: “It is going to take a considerable period of time to fully work through Grenfell Tower over the coming weeks.”

Cundy said officers had accessed the flat where the fire had begun and there was nothing to suggest the fire had been started deliberately.

Grenfell Tower: the missing

He requested family members to get in touch if they were still unsure what had happened.

The news of more dead came as the Queen and Prince William visited a relief centre for Grenfell Tower fire victims and anger grew in the area.

Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, was heckled by residents when she arrived in the area. One resident said: “Why has Sadiq Khan and Corbyn come down here, not with bodyguards and police, they have come down here and spoken to people and come down to our level? Why is Theresa May coming here with a load of police walking around her, not meeting anyone, not meeting the families?”

Leadsom attempted to calm the residents. “I have come down here as leader of the House of Commons,” she said. “I have had some discussions with residents today. it is devastating absolutely devastating and I do sense the anger, and I am completely sympathetic. I utterly understand it.”


Sandra Laville

The GuardianTramp

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