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London high-rise fire: Police say 58 dead or missing

Photo: London Fire Brigade
Photo: London Fire Brigade
London's Metropolitan Police Service has said that at least 58 people have died or are missing in the devastating fire that engulfed and almost completely destroyed a 24-storeyed building of apartments, Grenfell Towers, in West London in the early hours of last Wednesday.
 
A statement from the police said this number included the 30 people who were confirmed dead on Friday.
 
"Based on what police now know, sadly 58 are missing and we assumed likely to have died. This latest figure includes the 30 already confirmed to have died in the devastating fire in a west London tower block on Wednesday," it said.
 
The police also confirmed the identity of one of the victims who perished in the fire. 
 
"Police can confirm that Mohammad Alhajali, aged 23, who lived in Grenfell Tower has now been formally identified. A post mortem examination was carried out on Friday, 16 June at Westminster Mortuary," the statement said.
 
According to it, family liaison officers have now been deployed to support 52 families. These include the families of those deceased as well as those who are critically injured, and also families in cases where police have strong reason to believe that people reported as missing are very likely to be inside Grenfell Tower.
 
"Over the last four days police have worked tirelessly to provide greater clarity on the number of people that are believed to have died in the fire.This has involved focusing our efforts on the people we have been told were in the building at the time of the fire but have not been seen since,"  it said.
 
"Those families who have not yet had a family liaison officer deployed to support them will be contacted by police throughout the course of this afternoon," it said.
 
The police said 16 bodies were now in a mortuary, including one person who died in hospital and the others have been recovered from the building.
 
At this stage 19 people remain in hospital of which ten are receiving critical care. Everyone who was taken to or who remains in hospital has been identified, it said.
 
The statement also said the ongoing search and rescue operation being carried out by joint specialist teams from the London Fire Brigade, London Ambulance Service and the Met had to stop on Friday afternoon due to serious concerns about the safety of those recovering bodies due to the overwhelming damage caused by the fire.
 
As of 13:30 on Saturday, those teams have re-entered the building and are now continuing with the recovery operation, which will take many weeks to come.
 
Metropolitan Police Service Commander Commander Stuart Cundy, said: "Whilst I sincerely hope that our work over the coming days means that we able to say that less people are confirmed as having died, I also have to consider the sad reality that this may rise.
 
"I would like to ask anyone who was in Grenfell Tower that night, but for whatever reason has not told us they are safe to please call our Casualty Bureau. It does not matter why you have not told us, what is important is that we know you are safe.
 
"I completely understand the growing sense of frustration within the local community and especially those people for whom Grenfell Tower was home.The loss of life as a result of this tragedy is truly harrowing, and we remain committed to providing the certainty and answers as soon as we possibly can.
 
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"Sadly, our work will be ongoing for many, many weeks. We know that there are still bodies of those who died inside the building and we want to return those people to their families as soon as we possibly can.
 
"The work to search the building is challenging, but naturally could never be done quickly enough for those currently having to live with the uncertainty of knowing where their loved ones are," he said.
 
"Family liaison officers are providing support to 52 families. We are drawing on officers from across the Met, and other forces, to provide our response and will make sure that our response has as many officers as it needs."
 
Meanwhile, detectives carrying out the investigation are appealing for the public's help.
 
"I would like to ask the public for their help with this complex investigation.If you have images or videos that show the fire then please give it to us. Part of our investigation will involve a painstaking analysis of how the fire spread and this footage could be vital to helping establish that.
 
The statement said that families would be informed as soon as formal identifications had been made, which can only be done when police can prove beyond doubt the identity. Due to the intensity of the fire that took hold of the building this is essential in ensuring that families can be confident in identification processes, it said.
 
"Internationally recognised standards of identification are being used to identify the deceased. These are known as the INTERPOL Disaster Victim Identification Standards.
 
"Victims are identified where possible, by at least one of the primary identification methods which are dental comparison, fingerprints and DNA.
 
"Other, secondary, identification features are also taken into consideration, such as tattoos and scars. Supporting information to consider can include jewellery, clothing or property.
 
"Trained liaison officers are deployed into families once a preliminary identification has been made, who support them through the formal identification process.These processes take place in conjunction with the coroner. Both the Met and the coroner are committed to working as quickly as possible to identify people and repatriate them to their families," the statement said.
 
Among other things, the police are investigating how the fire spread so quickly and dramatically to the entire building, from the second floor up, and claimed so many lives.
 
The police, however, had said on Friday that, following initial reports from specialist investigators and experts who examined the flat where the fire started, there was nothing to suggest the fire was started deliberately.
 
According to various sources, Grenfell Tower, Tower, on Latimer Road in North Kensington in West London, had about 130 flats with some 500 residents, but there was no estimate about how many were actually in when the fire broke out. Most of those present in the building would have been asleep when the blaze started at around 0045 hours on Wednesday.
 
London Fire Brigade said they received the first calls about the fire at around 0054 hours on Wednesday and as many as 40 fire tenders and 200 firefighters reached the scene soon.
 
The firefighters battled the flames, which spread very quickly and engulfed nearly the entire building, from the second floor to the top floor, leaving many people, epsecially those on the upper floors, with not much time to escape.
 
Police said they were called at 01:16 hrs to reports of a large fire at a block of flats at the Lancaster West Estate, W11 and officers were rushed there. Emergency services evacuated as many residents as possible from the tower block in extremely difficult circumstances.
 
The entire area around the building was cordoned off by the police and around 30 adjacent flats to the tower block were evacuated as a precautionary measure. People were advised to avoid the area.
 
The cause of the fire is not known at this stage. The building had undergone a multi-million pound refurbishment recently.
 
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