Grenfell Tower fire: Police warn death toll could rise above 58 while releasing photos showing inside of flats

Pictures show utter devastation wreaked on the 24-storey tower as police warn some people may never be identified

Caroline Mortimer
Sunday 18 June 2017 20:28
Footage from inside Grenfell Tower shows 'indescribable' extent of damage from fire

Police have released photos showing the destruction inside Grenfell Tower while warning that the presumed death toll could rise above 58.

Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said: “Work has been ongoing throughout the night and continues today, so we can get as good an understanding as possible about who we believe to be still missing.

“Sadly that work leads me to believe that the number of people missing, but as yet unaccounted for has risen from yesterday’s figure of 58."

The fire is believed to have started on the fourth floor of the 24 storey tower block in the early hours of Wednesday morning before spreading up the building via the cladding on the external walls.

Residents were forced to flee down the central staircase with many being left behind in the chaos. One mother told of how she had tried to guide her six children down the stairs to safety but realised two were missing when she got to the ground.

Eyewitnesses have described watching a mother throwing her baby out of a 10-storey which was caught by a man below.

Many others were unable to leave their flats due to the thick black smoke filling the corridors. The victims' friends and families have told of frantic social media messages and phone calls saying goodbye as the fire got closer and closer.

In the days following the blaze, tensions have risen over the authorities handling of the relief effort.

Police and fire crews have asked local residents for patience after they were accused of deliberately playing down the death toll.

PC Cundy said the force was releasing the pictures to highlight "the scale of the challenge facing us as our teams search Grenfell Tower to recover those people still inside and return them to their loved ones".

Picture showing the lifts on an unknown floor

He said: "Whilst our teams have been from the bottom to the top of the tower, we must now carry out a full forensic and systematic search.

"The conditions due to the fire damage verge on indescribable, which is why this will be such a lengthy operation taking weeks to complete.

"We must also prepare people for the terrible reality that some people may not be identified due to the intensity of the fire."

Many are demanding to know what is happening to their loved ones and angry crowds stormed the council's headquarters on Friday to protest the lack of information or support and its failure to listen to residents' concerns about fire safety.

It has emerged that a group of concerned residents, the Grenfell Action Group, wrote in a blog post where they said a "catastrophe" was waiting to happen and complained about the "cheap materials and corner cutting" in the block's refurbishment.

Two women feared dead in the blaze, Mariem Elgwahry, 27, and Nadia Choucair, 33, campaigned to force the management company responsible for the tower – the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) – to take their concerns seriously.

The pair organised a petition and a protest outside the KCTMO offices but it is claimed the pair were sent letters threatening legal action in response.

Much of the anger has been focused on the fact that the council opted to buy cheaper, flammable plastic based cladding to improve the appearance and insulation of the building over a non-flammable mineral based version which cost just £2 per panel more.

Critics have called it outrageous that one of the country's richest councils refused to pay an extra £5,000 to ensure the safety of its tenants when it has £270m in usable reserves.

Chancellor Philip Hammond later revealed it is illegal to use that sort of cladding on a high rise building in the UK – not just in Germany and the US as previously reported.

A criminal investigation has been launched after which Theresa May has said there will be a public inquiry – but victims and campaigning are calling for an inquest which is independent of the government and has more powers to investigate.

Ms May meet with residents in Downing Street on Saturday having previously been criticised for only speaking to the emergency services when she visited the scene on Thursday.

She announced £5m discretionary fund to help the victims of the blaze with £5,500 available for each household from Monday.

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