London fire may have destroyed DNA

2017-06-16 20:01
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

London - The devastating fire that struck a high-rise tower in London may have been so powerful that it destroyed much of the DNA evidence needed to identify its victims.

As firefighters keep searching the charred ruins of the Grenfell Tower public housing complex with sniffer dogs and drones, Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy said there was "a risk that, sadly, we may not be able to identify everybody".

Temperature of blaze

Experts said the intensity of Wednesday's fire at the 24-story building will make naming victims extremely difficult, drawing comparisons to the 2001 World Trade Centre terror attacks in New York, where 40% of the victims were never identified.

"When you have a fire that takes hold like that...it is literally an inferno. You get a lot of fragmentation of bodies, charring of bones and sometimes all that's left is ash," said Peter Vanezis, a professor of forensic medical sciences at Queen Mary University in London.

He said the temperature of the blaze at Grenfell Tower was comparable to a cremation.

"The longer a fire burns, the less chance you have that there will be enough DNA left to test," Vanezis said. Still, he said if people were protected by any surrounding furniture or debris, it's possible there might be some viable DNA.

Another complicating factor is that much of the DNA material that would normally be used to help pinpoint victims - like toothbrushes or combs - were probably also incinerated in the blaze.

"Even if we get some DNA, the question will be, do we have anything to compare it to?" said Denise Syndercombe Court, a forensic science expert at King's College London.

In those cases, Syndercombe Court said experts would need a DNA sample from other family members or need to see if there are any reference samples available elsewhere, like a hospital blood or tissue test.

Take months

Syndercombe Court said even tiny fragments of teeth or bone could help, explaining that DNA tests can be run on as few as 10 to 20 cells. She said many identifications would probably be done via dental records, predicting that such samples would be more likely found from people who died of smoke inhalation, rather than those killed by the fire itself.

Syndercombe Court said the testing process would likely take months, as officials scour through remains, search for things like comparison DNA and go through a lengthy verification process.

"People won't want to give up easily," she said, adding that officials would likely also encounter other obstacles, like trying to find people who weren't expected to be at the tower or differentiating between siblings where little DNA remains.

The timing of the fire - after the recent deadly attacks in Manchester and London - also doesn't help.

Unknown number

"The capacity of labs to do this kind of testing is limited," Syndercombe Court said. "They're already working on forensic evidence from Manchester and London. This just adds to the backlog".

As of Friday, London police said 30 people have died in the Grenfell blaze and they are still searching for an unknown number of missing, although rumours were circulating that more than 70 people could still be missing.

Read more on:    uk

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.