The number of people dead or missing presumed dead after the Grenfell Tower fire has risen to 79, police have said.
That figure may change as the search and recovery operation takes place over the coming weeks, but it is not expected to rise significantly. Five of the dead have now been 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’s a hugely complex situation. Sadly today, as of 8am this morning, the number has increased. I believe there are 79 people who are either dead, or missing and sadly I have to presume are dead.” Specialist officers were supporting families, he said.
“The terrible reality of the fire on that night means that some of those that we are supporting have lost a number of their family members.” Cundy said the figure may change for a number of reasons. “As our understanding of the tragedy becomes clear there may be people who were in Grenfell Tower on the night that people don’t know were in there, that families and others don’t know were in there on the night.
“Equally there may be people who were in there that we believe are missing that did escape, but for whatever reason have not let it be known.”
He appealed for any such people to confirm they are safe. “What is important to myself and all of us is to find everyone who was inside that building and return them to their loved ones. Five people who were reported as missing had been found safe and well, he said.
Cundy fought back tears as he told reporters about the scene inside the 24-storey tower in north Kensington. He said specialist police teams, supported by London’s fire brigade and ambulance service, were working inside the block. “It’s a painstaking task to locate and recover all those within Grenfell Tower.
“Our teams have been throughout the whole building from the top to the bottom. On Saturday I was in there myself and went all the way to the top floor, and it is incredibly hard to describe the devastation in some parts of that building.”
Images released by police with the permission of those that had lived in the flats show the extent of the devastation. “It is a truly awful reality that there may be some people that we may not be able to identify” because of the intensity of the fire, he said.