London inferno toll reaches 30, over 70 unaccounted for

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London, June 16 (IANS) The deaths in the devastating Grenfell Tower blaze here have risen to 30 and more than 70 persons remain unaccounted for. Search was ongoing to find more bodies in the building, the Metropolitan Police said on Friday.

At least 24 people remain in hospital, including 12 in critical care, said Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy, the Telegraph reported.

Anger and frustration mounted in the London neighbourhood stunned by the tragedy as relatives and friends of the missing made increasingly desperate appeals for information.

Since over 70 persons remain unaccounted for, the police fear that the blaze was so devastating that some victims might never be identified. According to a BBC report, 76 persons were missing, but the Met couldn’t confirm the figure.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Cundy said: “I’m able to say at this point in time at least 30 people have died as a result of this fire.”

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He also said the last flames have finally been put out, two days after the fire broke out in the early hours of Wednesday morning in the 24-storey tower in North Kensington.

He said more bodies remain in the building following the fire. “Sadly, we do not expect there to be any survivors.”

Cundy said the police had started a criminal investigation but there was nothing to suggest “that the fire had been started deliberately”.

He said the building was in a “very hazardous state” and that it would take a period of time for “specialists to fully search that building to make sure we locate and recover everybody that has sadly perished in that fire”.

Emergency services were spending a third day searching for bodies in the tower. Six victims had been provisionally identified. Cundy said there was a “risk” that investigators would “not be able to identify everybody”.

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Responding to speculation that the tower toll could soar to over 100, Cundy said: “For those of us that have been down there, it’s pretty emotional, so I hope it is not triple figures.”

Fire chiefs said they do not expect to find more survivors, while Prime Minister Theresa May ordered a full public inquiry. May came under criticism for not meeting residents when she visited the site on Thursday to talk with emergency workers. She met injured survivors in hospital on Friday.

A former deputy leader of the Conservatives accused May of failing to show “humanity” for not meeting the victims earlier.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William made an unannounced visit to a relief centre set up for the victims, where they met residents and signed a book of condolence in front of a wall plastered with “missing persons” posters describing those feared lost in the fire.

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Meanwhile, on Thursday, the first victim of the fire was named as Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali, 23.

In a statement, 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 talking to a friend in Syria.

He had been trying to get through to his family while he was waiting to be rescued. The cause of the fire remained undetermined.



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