London: The death toll in the massive fire that engulfed a 24-storey tower here nearly doubled to 30 today amid fears that it could climb to “triple figures”, even as Scotland Yard launched a criminal investigation into the cause of one of the worst fire tragedies in the country.
The investigation team will be drawn together from detectives from across the Metropolitan Police, led by Detective Chief Inspector Matt Bonner of the Homicide and Major Crime Command, and will establish if a crime was committed before confirming what caused the tragedy.
“At this stage the Met can confirm that, following initial reports from specialist investigators and experts who have examined the flat where the fire started, there is nothing to suggest the fire was started deliberately,” Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said.
“At least 30 fatalities have been confirmed; the bodies of 12 people have been recovered and are at a mortuary, which includes one person who has also died at hospital…The other deceased remain inside the building. Sadly, it is expected that the total will rise and it is not expected that any survivors will be found,” he said.
Earlier, Cundy expressed fears that all the victims of the massive fire that engulfed the Grenfell Tower in west London may never be identified as there was growing anger over the failure of authorities to ensure the fire safety of the residential block.
“There is a risk that sadly we may not be able to identify everybody,” he said, adding that he hoped the death toll will not hit “triple figures”.
Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by grandson Prince William, paid a visit to the Grenfell Tower this morning where the number of missing is estimated to be around 76.
They met volunteers, local residents and community representatives while visiting Westway Sports Centre in west London, near the burnt down 24-storey Grenfell Tower.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a judge- led full public inquiry into the incident and is expected to pay a visit to the injured in one of the London hospitals after she faced criticism over her failure to meet the victims during a visit to the site yesterday.
Newly-appointed Indian-origin housing minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government, Alok Sharma, said, “Every single family will be rehoused in the local area”.
Local residents shouted angry questions when London mayor Sadiq Khan paid a visit to the area.
Friends and families of victims, including a furious seven-year-old, asked: “How many children died? What are you going to do about it?”
“The bad news, I’m afraid, is lots of people died in the fire. There are a lot of brave firefighters and police and ambulance workers. And once it’s safe, they are going to go into the building,” he said, in an attempt to calm the crowds.
The local Grenfell Action Group had claimed, before and during a major 10-million-pound refurbishment of Grenfell Tower last year, that the block constituted a fire risk and residents had warned that access to the site for emergency vehicles was “severely restricted”.
Emergency services are to spend a third day searching for bodies in the burnt-out Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, where they were called to reports of a fire in the early hours of Wednesday.
Their teams were forced to leave the 24-storey building yesterday afternoon when the fire restarted, delaying further the efforts to reach upper floors — where many victims are thought to have been trapped.
Particular concerns have been raised about the rain- screen cladding used on the outside of the tower, which experts said might have accelerated the inferno that consumed the entire block in just 15 minutes.
It has since emerged that the US had banned the type of cladding thought to have been used on Grenfell Tower.
The leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council — the authority that owns the tower block — told the BBC it would not use the type of cladding fitted to Grenfell Tower in other buildings in the borough.
Yesterday, the first victim of the fire was named as 23- year-old Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali.
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 to a friend in Syria.
Meanwhile, donations to help those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy have surpassed 2 million pounds in just two days.