London tower fire: 79 now feared dead

The toll of those dead or missing in the Grenfell Tower fire in London now stands at 79, police say.

Police Commander Stuart Cundy gave the new figure during a statement outside Scotland Yard, saying it includes both people who were confirmed dead and others who are missing and presumed dead. It's an increase from the previous number of 58.

Much of the west London apartment block, home to hundreds of people, was ravaged by flames in the early hours of June 14.

Cundy said the scenes inside the building verged on "indescribable", adding the operation had been incredibly distressing for families.

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He told reporters the "awful reality" was it might not be possible to identify all the victims.

"It's hard to describe the devastation the fire has caused," Cundy said, fighting back tears as he spoke.

He said it had been "incredibly emotional working in there ... On Saturday, I went in myself and went to the top floor".

The death toll could still change, but not by as much as it had done in recent days. Five people who had been reported missing in fire had been found safe and well, Cundy said.

Authorities were now investigating whether any crimes had been committed, Cundy said.

Britain held a moment of silence for the victims on Monday, with emergency service workers bowing their heads in respect.

Two British officials have said that new exterior cladding used in a renovation of Grenfell Tower may have been banned under UK building regulations. Experts believe the new paneling, which contained insulation, helped spread the flames quickly up the outside of the public housing tower. Some said they had never seen a building fire advance so quickly.

Trade Minister Greg Hands said on Sunday (local time) the government was carrying out an "urgent inspection" of the roughly 2500 similar tower blocks across Britain to assess their safety, while an opposition lawmaker urged the government to quickly secure documents in the Grenfell renovation for the criminal investigation.

The Metropolitan Police also released three photos from inside Grenfell Tower, which showed in close detail how the fire charred the building that once housed up to 600 people in 120 apartments.

Frustration has been mounting in recent days as information about those still missing in the blaze has been scanty and efforts to find temporary housing for the hundreds of now-homeless tower residents have faltered.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, criticised shortly after the blaze for failing to meet with victims, says the public inquiry looking into the tragedy will report directly to her. She also says she will receive daily reports from the stricken neighbourhood.

In addition, British health authorities will provide long-term bereavement counselling for those who lost loved ones in the tragedy.

 - AP

Fuente: WAIKATO TIMES