Final death toll for London tower blaze to take months

2017-06-29 05:03
A T-shirt left by firefighters near Grenfell Tower in London. (Frank Augstein, AP)

A T-shirt left by firefighters near Grenfell Tower in London. (Frank Augstein, AP)

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London - It will be "many months" before authorities will be able to give a final death toll for the London tower block blaze, police said on Wednesday while stressing the enormity of the task.

"We are many months from being able to provide the number of people who accurately represents the loss of life at Grenfell Tower," detective Fiona McCormack told journalists.

"We believe around 80 people to be dead or sadly missing and I must presume that they are dead," she said.

Two weeks after the devastating fire took hold of Grenfell Tower in west London, investigators are carrying out what McCormack described as a "painstaking, fingertip search" to try and establish how many people died.

"The tragic reality is that due to the intense heat of the fire there are some people who we may never identify," the police detective added.

Victims named so far include 5-year-old Isaac Paulos, who was identified by dental records after disappearing as his family tried to escape the blaze.

Survivors and local residents have voiced anger at the police slowly increasing the toll and accuse them of playing down the number of dead.

The Guardian newspaper said resident Sajad Jamalvatan had compiled a list which suggested the true figure could be above 120.

As well as interviewing residents, police have spoken to others including food delivery companies and schools in order to establish who was inside Grenfell Tower.

The task has been made all the more difficult by inaccurate tenancy lists and the knowledge that some residents fled their homes and went to higher floors to try to escape the inferno.

Police have so far managed to speak to survivors from 106 of the building's 129 flats, while no one has been traced from the remaining 23 apartments.

"At this stage, we must presume that no one from those 23 flats survived," the police detective explained.

Cladding 'not compliant' 

Grenfell Tower recently underwent a refurbishment and suspicion has fallen on the cladding with allegations that it contributed to the rapid spread of the fire.

The US supplier of the Reynobond PE cladding used announced on Monday that it was stopping global sales of the material for use in high-rises.

Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament on Wednesday that it was her understanding that "this particular cladding was not compliant with building regulations".

Sixty companies involved in the refurbishment have been identified by the police.

The government has promised to investigate the use of such material on high-rise buildings following the tower fire, with around 600 tower blocks in England alone believed to have similar tiling to that used at Grenfell Tower.

All 120 high-rises tested so far have failed the ongoing safety checks, the prime minister told parliament.

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