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Rediff.com  » News » Death toll in London inferno hits 30, and is likely to climb to over 100

Death toll in London inferno hits 30, and is likely to climb to over 100

June 16, 2017 17:55 IST

Amid fears that bodies of those found in the Grenfell Tower won’t be recognised ever, the Queen and Prince William visit victims and families of those affected. 

IMAGE: Fire fighters drench the burning 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London. Officials fear the death toll in the inferno will rise to over 100 making it one of the worst fire tragedies in the country. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

The death toll in the horrific fire that engulfed a 24-storey tower in west London rose to 30 on Friday amid fears that it could climb to over 100 in one of the worst fire tragedies in the country.

Metropolitan police commander Stuart Cundy said, “We know that at least 30 people who have died. The bodies have been taken to a morgue, but more bodies remain in the building.”

“We always knew that the death toll would increase,” Cundy said, adding that there was nothing to suggest that the fire at the GrenfellTower was started deliberately.

The investigation into the cause of the fire that has now been extinguished will take weeks, he added.

“Sadly we do not expect there to be any survivors,” Cundy said.

IMAGE: Emergency services are now in the third day of searing for bodies in the burnt-out building. On Thursday, officials had to leave the 24-storey building when the fire restarted, delaying further the efforts to reach upper floors -- where many victims are thought to have been trapped. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

Earlier on Friday, Scotland Yard expressed fears that all the victims of the massive fire that engulfed a 24-storey tower in west London may never be identified.

While 30 people have been confirmed dead, there are fears the death toll could hit hundreds.

Cundy said there was “a risk that sadly we may not be able to identify everybody”.

Asked about the number of dead, he said he hoped the death toll would not reach “triple figures” and indicated a criminal investigation into the cause of the fire is underway.

“We as the police, we investigate criminal offences -- I am not sitting here and saying there are criminal offences that have been committed, that’s why you do an investigation, to establish it,” he said.

IMAGE: Britain's Queen Elizabeth meets firefighters during a visit to the Westway Sports Centre following the fire at the Grenfell Tower block. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/Pool/Reuters

Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by grandson Prince William, paid a visit to the GrenfellTower on Friday morning where the number of missing is estimated to be around 76.

They met volunteers, local residents and community representatives while visiting Westway Sports Centre in west London, near the burnt down 24-storey GrenfellTower.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a judge-led full public inquiry into the incident and is expected to pay a visit to the injured in one of the London hospitals after she faced criticism over her failure to meet the victims during a visit to the site yesterday.

Newly-appointed Indian-origin housing minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government, Alok Sharma, said, “Every single family will be rehoused in the local area”.

Local residents shouted angry questions when London mayor Sadiq Khan paid a visit to the area.

Friends and families of victims, including a furious seven-year-old, asked: “How many children died? What are you going to do about it?”

IMAGE: The Queen and her grandson, Prince William, also met with those affected by the blaze and consoled them of their loss. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/Pool/Reuters

“The bad news, I’m afraid, is lots of people died in the fire. There are a lot of brave firefighters and police and ambulance workers. And once it’s safe, they are going to go into the building,” he said, in an attempt to calm the crowds.

The local Grenfell Action Group had claimed, before and during a major 10-million-pound refurbishment of GrenfellTower last year, that the block constituted a fire risk and residents had warned that access to the site for emergency vehicles was “severely restricted”.

Emergency services are to spend a third day searching for bodies in the burnt-out Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, where they were called to reports of a fire in the early hours of Wednesday.

Their teams were forced to leave the 24-storey building on Thursday afternoon when the fire restarted, delaying further the efforts to reach upper floors -- where many victims are thought to have been trapped.

IMAGE: According to initial investigations, the rain-screen cladding used on the outside of the tower had been banned by the US. It is believed that the cladding might have accelerated the inferno that consumed the entire block in just 15 minutes. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Particular concerns have been raised about the rain-screen cladding used on the outside of the tower, which experts said might have accelerated the inferno that consumed the entire block in just 15 minutes.

It has since emerged that the US had banned the type of cladding thought to have been used on Grenfell Tower.

The leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council -- the authority that owns the tower block -- told the BBC it would not use the type of cladding fitted to GrenfellTower in other buildings in the borough.

On Thursday, the first victim of the fire was named as 23- year-old Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali.

IMAGE: A woman weeps as continues to pray and hope to find her loved ones trapped in the 24-storey high building. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

The Syria Solidarity Campaign said Alhajali, a civil engineering student, had been in a flat on the 14th floor when the fire broke out, and had spent two hours on the phone to a friend in Syria.

Meanwhile, donations to help those affected by the GrenfellTower tragedy have surpassed £2 million (Rs 16.46 crore) in just two days.

Aditi Khanna
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