Grenfell Tower fire: death toll raised to 79 as minute’s silence held

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Five people have now been formally identified as having died in tower block blaze with 74 missing and presumed dead

 
 
People walk past floral tributes outside Notting Hill Methodist church, near Grenfell Tower in west London.
People walk past floral tributes outside Notting Hill Methodist Church, near Grenfell Tower in West London. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

The number of people dead or missing presumed dead following the Grenfell Tower tragedy has risen to 79, police have said, as a minute’s silence was held for victims of the fire.

Firefighters halted work to join residents at the North Kensington site at 11 am on Monday during emotional scenes to remember those killed. Four more people were formally identified, taking the total to five in the early stages of a search and recovery operation expected to take weeks.

Those named formally on Monday were Anthony Disson, 65, Abufars Ibrahim, 39, Ya-Haddy Sisi Saye, also known as Khadija Saye, 24, an artist who had previously been identified by friends, and a 52-year-old woman whose family did not wish for her name to be released.

Mohammed Alhajali, 23, a Syrian refugee studying engineering at the University of West London, was named over the weekend, the first to be formally identified.

Commander Stuart Cundy, of the Metropolitan Police, said: “Over the last 48 hours a huge amount of effort has been undertaken by our investigators to understand as completely as we possibly can just how many people are missing who were in Grenfell Tower that night. If they are missing I do presume, sadly, that they are also dead.

“It is a hugely complex situation. Sadly today, as of 8 am the number of people has increased. I believe there are 79 people who are either dead or missing and, sadly, I have to presume are dead.” That figure could change, but not as significantly as it has in recent days.

Cundy said it was “a truly awful reality that there may be some people who we may not be able to identify” because of the intensity of the fire.

His voice breaking, he said it was “incredibly emotional” for those from the police, London fire brigade and London ambulance service who are working in the burnt-out skeleton of the 24-storey block, which was built in the 1970s and had housed between 400 and 600 people in 120 flats.

Cundy said: “On Saturday I went in myself and went to the top floor and it is incredibly hard to describe the devastation in some parts of that building.

“I have investigated major crime for most of my service and I have seen some terrible things, but I don’t think anything prepared me for what I was going to see when I was in there.”

Members of the emergency services observe a minute’s silence near Grenfell Tower.
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Members of the emergency services observe a minute’s silence near Grenfell Tower. Photograph: Ray Tang/Rex/Shutterstock

In a statement, the family of Anthony Disson said: “Our family is devastated at receiving the news that Tony sadly did not survive the fire at Grenfell Tower. Tony leaves behind a large family, his wife, sons and grandchildren, including one grandchild he will never get to meet.

“We miss him terribly and are pulling together as a family and trying to stay strong under these tragic circumstances. We ask at this time that our family are left to grieve in private.”

The block is now a crime scene as a criminal investigation is under way involving 250 investigators. Specialist police teams, supported by London’s fire brigade and ambulance service, are involved in the “painstaking task to locate and recover all those within Grenfell Tower”, Cundy said.

Specialist officers were supporting families. “The terrible reality of the fire on that night means that some of those who we are supporting have lost a number of their family members,” he said.

Among those still waiting for news are two brothers, Nabil and Hissam Choukair, whose mother, brother-in-law, sister and her three young children – Fatima, Mierna and Zainab – are all missing. The family, originally from Lebanon, lived on the 22nd floor. Nabil Choukair said he believed that the picture published in many newspapers last week of a family silhouetted in flames holding up a towel were his relatives. “We want answers,” he said at the weekend. “We want justice. We want the truth. We are all one in this; we are all family together.”

Five people who had been reported as missing after the disaster have since been found safe and well.

The scale of the criminal investigation was “truly, truly significant”. Cundy said: “We are looking at all criminal offences that may have been committed.”

The investigation would be “exhaustive”, looking not just at how the fire started and spread but also “why this happened”. It would be “far-reaching in a number of areas”, from how the building was managed and maintained, the fire safety measures, its construction and the recent refurbishment.

The identification process is likely to be lengthy. Some residents were from other countries and it will take time for police to receive information such as dental records.

“It is so important to me that the families have every confidence in our identification procedure and processes so they know it is their loved ones being returned to them and that is why it is so exhaustive, and it can be very time-consuming. But my absolute commitment to all the families and loved ones of those who died is that we will do this as quickly as possible,” Cundy said.

 
 
 
 
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Police release first footage from inside Grenfell Tower

The number of victims may change as there may have been people in the block that night whom family and friends did not know were there. Equally, there may be people the police believe to be missing but who are safe. Police have appealed for any such people to confirm they are safe.

They have also appealed to the public to make available any photographs or footage of the fire and its immediate aftermath that may aid the investigation.

The soaring summer heat is contributing to the difficulties faced by firefighters who are using specially trained dogs to locate bodies.

NHS England said 17 patients were still being treated in four London hospitals for burns, smoke inhalation and injuries sustained in the fire. Of those, nine are in critical care.

Dany Cotton, the London fire commissioner, said she understood the “absolute frustration and misery” of people concerned about loved ones who had not yet been identified but that it was critical to go through the process properly.

Theresa May was due to chair a meeting of the Grenfell Tower task force on Monday afternoon to drive forward the official response to the tragedy. Several London boroughs had come together to coordinate assistance to those affected by the disaster.

The government announced on Sunday that those left homeless would be given at least £5,500 from an emergency fund. Residents will be given £500 in cash followed by a bank payment for the rest from Monday and the money will come from the £5m fund announced by May on Friday.

Horrific news, My thoughts are with them all :(

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Fire service confirm there have been ‘a number of fatalities’ in Grenfell Tower fire

Fire service confirm there have been 'a number of fatalities' in Grenfell Tower fire
The scene in West London this morning (Picture: SWNS)

London Fire Brigade confirmed this morning that there have been ‘a number of fatalities’ in the Grenfell Tower blaze in West London.

It is not currently known how many people have been killed, but the number is believed to be significant as there would have been several hundred people in the flats at the time.

What to do if you are affected by the Grenfell tower fire in west LondonLondon Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said the first call came in to police at 12.54am and the first of 40 appliances arrived within six minutes.

She told reporters at the scene: ‘This is an unprecedented incident. In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never ever seen anything of this scale.’

Residents who escaped the fire at the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in north Kensington spoke of others trapped and screaming for help, with some holding children from windows and others jumping from upper floors.

Fire Commissioner: ‘I’ve never seen anything of this scale’

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Firefighters struggle to put out huge fire at Grenfell tower

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Fire service confirm there have been 'a number of fatalities' in Grenfell Tower fire
Most of the building has been destroyed in the fire (Picture: PA)

Pictures from the scene showed flames engulfing the block and a plume of smoke visible across the capital, while others showed residents looking out of windows in the block.

The leader of Kensington and Chelsea Borough Nick Paget-Brown said ‘several hundred’ people would have been in the block when the fire broke out.

Several hundred people were in Grenfell Tower when it went up in flamesActor and writer Tim Downie, who lives around 600 metres from the scene in Latimer Road, told the Press Association he feared the block could collapse.

He said: ‘It’s horrendous. The whole building is engulfed in flames. It’s gone. It’s just a matter of time before this building collapses.

‘It’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen. I just hope they have got everyone out. The first I knew was the noise of sirens, helicopters and shouting. I saw it engulfed in flames.

Screams heard as London tower block is engulfed in flames

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Fire service confirm there have been 'a number of fatalities' in Grenfell Tower fire
The fire broke out shortly after 1am (Picture: Rex Shutterstock)

‘People have been bringing water, clothes, anything they’ve got to help, out to the cordon. I have seen people coming out in their bedclothes – it’s just very distressing.’

Jody Martin said he got to the scene just as the first fire engine was arriving.

He told the BBC: ‘I watched one person falling out, I watched another woman holding her baby out the window… hearing screams, I was yelling everyone to get down and they were saying ‘We can’t leave our apartments, the smoke is too bad on the corridors’,’ he said.

Mr Paget-Brown told Sky News: ‘Clearly it’s an absolutely devastating fire.

‘Several hundred would have been in there. It’s a question of establishing how many people were in there at the time of the fire.’

Fire service confirm there have been 'a number of fatalities' in Grenfell Tower fire
Fire crews confirmed there had been a number of people killed in the fire (Picture: PA)

Fabio Bebber wrote on Twitter: ‘More screams for help as the fire spreads to another side of the building.

‘We can see how quick the fire spreads via the external panels. It’s unbearable hearing someone screaming for their lives at #grenfelltower.’

George Clarke, who presents the Channel 4 TV show Amazing Spaces, told Radio 5 Live: ‘I was in bed and heard ‘beep, beep, beep’ and thought, ‘I’ll get up and run downstairs as quickly as I could’.

‘I thought it might be a car alarm outside and saw the glow through the windows.

Fire service confirm there have been 'a number of fatalities' in Grenfell Tower fire
There were 200 firefighters and 40 appliances called to the fire (Picture: EPA)

‘I’m getting covered in ash, that’s how bad it is. I’m 100 metres away and I’m absolutely covered in ash.

‘It’s so heartbreaking, I’ve seen someone flashing their torches at the top level and they obviously can’t get out.

‘The guys are doing an incredible job to try and get people out that building, but it’s truly awful.’

Shortly after 6am, London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals.

More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze which was reported just after 1.15am on Wednesday.

 

 

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