A huge fire started at the 24-floor Grenfell Tower in North Kensington on June 14, engulfing the entire building and trapping nearly 120 families inside.
“There are 79 people that are either confirmed dead and had been identified or are missing, and sadly I have to presume are dead”, police Commander Stuart Cundy said addressing the press outside Scotland Yard on Monday.
The new number may change as the investigation continues, Cundy told reporters in the televised address.
He said sophisticated techniques could be used to amplify the DNA, but noted such tests can only identify a person’s family, not the individual.
A total of £202,000 of government money has been handed out to 180 families who were directly affected by the Grenfell Tower fire.
“I’d like to reassure everybody that we will be looking at all criminal offenses that may have been committed by any individual or any organization”, he said.
People demonstrate demanding answers over the Grenfell Tower fire, in London, Friday June 16, 2017. The queen said it was “difficult to escape a very somber mood” on what is normally a day of celebration. They say they will also use visual elements like tattoos and scars, in the painstaking process.
Cundy said police had now managed to get to the top of the tower and had undertaken a first visual search for victims, ahead of later painstaking searches.
As NPR’s Merrit Kennedy reported, the Grenfell Tower fire has aroused the ire of those who feel it was caused by corporate malfeasance and who feel Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is not doing enough to respond. Our focus has been on those that we know were in Grenfell Tower.
“The work to search the building is challenging, but naturally could never be done quickly enough for those now having to live with the uncertainty of knowing where their loved ones are”.
Frustration has been mounting in recent days as information about those still missing in the inferno has been scanty and efforts to find temporary housing for the hundreds of now-homeless tower residents have faltered.
She added: “There are people in there, obviously, who have been subject to a very intense fire, and that will make some of the identification very hard, which is why it’s even more important that we make sure we do this in a measured, careful and very well managed way”. British officials have ordered a review of other buildings that have had similar renovations.
On Friday angry protesters chanting “We want justice” stormed their way into the Kensington and Chelsea town hall to try to confront the leaders of the local council.
The tragedy has provoked a enormous response from nearby communities that have donated food and shelter to the victim.
Numerous displaced are living in churches and community centers.
Two nearby Underground subway lines were partially shut down Saturday in the fire area to make sure that debris from the tower did not land on the tracks.
Some residents had warned months ago that the tower represented a risky fire risk.