At least 79 people have been presumed dead in the massive fire that engulfed a 24-storey tower here, the Scotland Yard said today, warning that the toll could climb further in one of the worst fire tragedies in the United Kingdom.
Five people who died in the blaze have been identified and 74 were missing and presumed dead following the devastating blaze in the council-owned Grenfell tower block in west London. Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy confirmed that the force now believes at least 79 people are dead or missing, presumed dead.
"This is incredibly distressing time for families. 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," he said.
Cundy said the death toll may still change, but not as significantly as it has in recent days. The Metropolitan Police has launched ‘wide ranging’ investigation, looking at the construction of the building, the recent refurbishment, how it was managed and maintained, and fire safety measures.
"I would like to reassure everybody that we will be looking at all criminal offences that might have been committed by any individual or any organisation," Cundy said.
"Where offences have been committed, I will do everything in my gift to make sure they are brought to justice," he added.
Officials and UK Chancellor Philip Hammond have indicated that the external rain-screen cladding believed to be the cause of the rapid spread of the fire at the Grenfell Tower may have been banned under building regulations in the UK. Fire had ripped through the 24-storey residential block in north Kensington in the early hours of June 13, trapping hundreds of people inside.
Rescue efforts have been ongoing, with civil servants drafted in over the weekend to aid with the humongous task following complaints from locals at the local council's response.
British Prime Minister Theresa May herself had come in for a barrage of criticism over her own response to the disaster. She has since announced additional support and a 5-million-pound relief fund for the rehabilitation of the victims.