LONDON (AP) - London police on Saturday raised to 58 the number of deaths either confirmed or presumed following the horrific inferno that turned the city’s Grenfell Tower public housing block into a charred hulk.
Public anger is mounting as residents and neighbors demand answers for how the blaze early Wednesday spread so quickly and trapped so many of the tower’s 600-odd residents. British media have reported that contractors installed a cheaper, less flame-resistant type of exterior paneling on the 24-story tower in a renovation that was completed just last year.
Police Commander Stuart Cundy said the number of 58 is based on reports from the public and may rise. It includes 30 deaths that already have been confirmed, and reports of people who are missing and presumed to have been killed. He says it will take weeks or longer to recover and identify all the dead at the building.
“Sadly, at this time there are 58 people who we have been told were in the Grenfell Tower on the night that are missing. And therefore, sadly, I have to assume that they are dead,” he said.
He said police would consider criminal prosecutions if there is evidence of wrongdoing and that the police investigation would include scrutiny of the renovation project at the tower, which experts believe may have left the building more vulnerable to a catastrophic blaze.
Police have been struggling to come up with an authoritative list of who was in the building when the fire started, making it difficult to determine how many had died.
Cundy said there may have been other people in the tower who police are not aware of, and that could increase the death toll. He asked anyone who was in the tower and survived to contact police immediately.