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London Grenfell fire death toll raised to 79

Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy speaks to the media near Grenfell Tower after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building, in London, Saturday June 17.
Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy speaks to the media near Grenfell Tower after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building, in London, Saturday June 17. Victoria Jones - PA via AP

LONDON police have now said they expect at least 79 people to have perished in the Grenfell Tower blaze last week.

The figure is a substantial jump on the previous number of 58 people dead or presumed missing.

Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said the number may still increase. "The search and recovery operation within Grenfell Tower continues," he said.

"This is an incredibly distressing time for families. They have my commitment we will do this as quickly as we possibly can."

Some people had suggested the authorities have been being slow in releasing figures for the suspected number of fatalities in the incident which occurred in north Kensington, just west of central London.

Last week, singer Lily Allen was criticised after she said she believed the real death toll was being covered up.

She told the BBC on Friday that relatives are "not really being given the opportunity to grieve, while there is this figure of 17 last night, now 30."

However, Police and other emergency services have said the nature of the Grenfell Tower blaze, with its ferocious fire, made it difficult to swiftly identify victims and understand the number of fatalities.

Mr Cundy said last week there was "a risk that sadly we may not be able to identify everybody".

Images released by the London Metropolitan Police show the devastation from the fire at Grenfell Tower in London.
Images released by the London Metropolitan Police show the devastation from the fire at Grenfell Tower in London. Metropolitan Police

The fire brigade have also had a perilous task accessing the blackened tower's upper floors.

Five people who had been reported missing after the disaster have been found safe and well, he said.

Mr Cundy said the search and recovery operation in the 24-storey tower continues, and it has been incredibly distressing for families.

He said that "it's hard to describe the devastation the fire has caused." Mr Cundy added that authorities are investigating whether any crimes had been committed in the fire.

On Sunday, Police released more shocking images of the inside of the ruined building. The fire was so intense even internal walls were burned away.

Two British officials said Sunday that new exterior cladding used in a renovation of Grenfell Tower may have been banned under UK building regulations, reported the Associated Press.

Prime Minister Theresa May, under pressure for keeping a distance from angry residents on a visit to the charred remains of the last week, has previously said that the response to the disaster was "not good enough".

Her government is trying to make up ground in reacting to a fire that trapped people in their beds in the early hours of Wednesday, with many unable to escape as the flames raced up the building, cutting off exit routes and forcing some to jump.

Topics:  death toll editors picks fire grenfell tower

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