Death toll in London tower block fire rises to 79

By Bo Leung in London | | Updated: 2017-06-19 19:40

The number of people missing or presumed dead in the Grenfell Tower fire in London has risen to 79, British police said.

Death toll in London tower block fire rises to 79

People react next to tributes to the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire near the site of the blaze in North Kensington, London, Britain, June 19, 2017.  [Photo/Agencies]

Commander Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan police said 5 people have been formally identified out of the 79, adding that some families have lost more than one member and his heart "went out to them".

Cundy said that it was an absolute priority to identify people who died in the building and to remove their remains quickly as possible.

"This is incredibly distressing time for families," he said, "It is really hard to describe the devastation the fire caused. What is important for me is to find answers for those families who have been directly affected."

Cundy told reporters the "awful reality" was that it might not be possible to identify all the victims "due to the intensity of the fire and the devastation within Grenfell Tower" and the operation would take "many, many weeks".

British police released footage from inside the gutted building, showing the extent of the damage caused by the blaze.

Describing the scene inside the 24-story tower in north Kensington Cundy said, "I have been inside there. In my career I have seen terrible scenes, but nothing like this. The conditions due to the fire damage verge on indescribable, which is why this will be such a lengthy operation taking weeks to complete," he said.

Cundy added that the death toll could still change, but not as significantly as it has in recent days.

"I believe there may be people who were in Grenfell Tower that people may not know are missing and may not have realized they were in there on the night," he said. "Equally, there may be people who thankfully managed to escape the fire and for whatever reason have not let their family and friends know that they are safe."

Cundy added that five people who had been reported missing after the disaster have been found safe and well.

A minute's silence was held at 11am across the UK to remember the people who lost their lives and those affected by the fire.

In the wake of the disaster, the government came under fire from residents over the handling of the crisis and threw the state of council housing into the spotlight, with London Mayor Sadiq Khan describing the blaze as a "preventable accident".

On Sunday, the government announced that those left homeless by the fire will be given at least 5,500 pounds ($7,038) from an emergency fund.

Residents will be given 500 pounds in cash per apartment followed by a bank payment for the rest from Monday, with the money coming from the 5 million pound fund announced by British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday.


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