Grenfell Tower fire: Police open criminal investigation into blaze that killed 17 as fears grow death toll could reach 100

Search for the victims could take 'months'

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The Independent Online

Fears are growing that the number of people killed in the Grenfell Tower fire could reach 100, as police announced they have opened a criminal investigation into the blaze.

The probe could result in the prosecution of anyone deemed responsible for building or design failures that caused the blaze.

"We as the police have started an investigation, I mentioned when I was down at the scene this morning that one of our very senior investigating officers is leading that for us," said Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy.

"We as the police, we investigate criminal offences - I am not sitting here and saying there are criminal offences that have been committed, that's why you do an investigation, to establish it.

"This will need to be a lot of work between us and other investigating agencies to establish what has happened and why and that is going to take a considerable period of time."

Mr Cundy added that of the 17 victims confirmed to have died, only six had been formally identified. In a sign of how many people police believe did not make it out of the building alive, the commander said he hoped the final death toll "does not reach treble figures".

The search for victims could take "months", he said, adding that aside from the six identified bodies, police did not know the other deceased. 

"We cannot release information we do not have and it is so important the information we do release is entirely accurate," he added.

Labour MP David Lammy has led calls for a criminal investigation, listing claims about the lack of sprinklers and fire doors as well as issues with the cladding in the building.

His friend, who lived on the 20th floor and is still missing, posted on Facebook at 3am saying that she felt faint, he said.

The Tottenham MP also said those responsible should be charged with corporate manslaughter.

"This is the richest borough in our country treating its citizens in this way,” he said.

"We should call it what it is, it's corporate manslaughter, that's what it is and there should be arrests made, frankly."

Grenfell tower fire: How the disaster unfolded

In other developments:

:: Search teams were forced to leave the tower when the fire restarted on Thursday afternoon.

:: Six bodies - all recovered from outside the building - have been taken to Westminster Mortuary.

:: Of the 17 known to be dead, six were identified using items such as passports.

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First image of the devastation inside one of the Grenfell Tower flats

:: One of the first victims was named as 23-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali.

:: A total of 30 people continue to receive hospital treatment, of which 15 are still in critical care, all of whom have now been identified and reunited with family.

:: Scores of families are preparing to spend a second night in temporary accommodation.

grenfell-inside-2.jpg
Charred remains of one of the high-rise flats destroyed in the blaze

As the focus turned to the cladding retrofitted to the building, experts said authorities may now need to ban the material used to cover the outside of Grenfell Tower.

The cladding – metal panels that were stuck on the outside of the building to help insulate and spruce up the building – has been blamed for the spread of the fire up and across the building.

The chairman of the National Fire Chiefs Council said that such re-cladding work “certainly needs to be re-considered”.

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