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London fire victims ‘may never be identified’

By IANS Updated: Jun 16, 2017 9:10 pm

London, June 16 (IANS): The London police on Friday said they may never be able to identify all those who died in the devastating fire that ravaged a 24-storey apartment block here.

Authorities have so far confirmed 17 deaths in the blaze that erupted early on Wednesday at the Grenfell Tower, but warned that the toll could go up as many residents were reported missing — feared still trapped inside.

More than 70 people were believed to be unaccounted for since the blaze, according to the Press Association. Emergency services were spending a third day searching for bodies in the tower in North Kensington, BBC reported.

Six victims had been provisionally identified. Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said there was a “risk” that investigators would “not be able to identify everybody”.

Anger was mounting over a litany of failings that led to the disaster, as fears grew that the toll could soar to over 100, The Telegraph reported.

Responding to speculation about the tower toll, Cundy said: “For those of us that have been down there, it’s pretty emotional, so I hope it is not triple figures, but I can’t be drawn on the numbers.”

Fire chiefs said they do not expect to find more survivors, while Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a full public inquiry.

Police on Thursday said they launched a criminal investigation into the fire.

A political row erupted, after May made a private visit to the scene, where she spoke to London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton and members of the emergency services, BBC reported.

However, unlike Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, May was not seen talking to the families and residents of the tower.

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

Michael Portillo claimed that the Prime Minister should have been ready to be “shouted at”, but instead wanted an “entirely controlled situation”. Labour MP Harriet Harman also criticised May for not meeting residents.

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.

“Mohammed came to this country for safety and the UK failed to protect him,” the group said. His older brother, Omar, told the BBC he had lost Mohammed on the way out of the building.

The cause of the fire remained undetermined.

By IANS Updated: Jun 16, 2017 9:10:41 pm