The death toll in the fire that ravaged a London tower block last week has risen to 79, police said on Monday, with the government adding it was working to get a public inquiry into the disaster up and running promptly.
Cmdr Cundy "We believe 79 people are either dead or missing & sadly we must presume them dead following #GrenfellTower fire”
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) June 19, 2017
The fire broke out in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower, a social housing block in west London, in the early hours of June 14 and spread with terrifying speed, tearing through the building with residents trapped inside.
A nationwide minute's silence was held to remember the victims of the blaze.
While emergency services have been widely praised for their handling of the disaster, the government has been criticised for a slow and inadequate response, with Prime Minister Theresa May facing public anger for failing to meet residents during her first visit to the site.
"Sadly today, as of 8 o'clock this morning (0700 GMT), the number has increased. I believe there are 79 people that are either dead or missing and sadly I have to presume are dead," Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy told reporters.
He said five of the dead had been formally identified, and it would be a slow and painstaking task to identify the others because of the intensity of the fire. Authorities may never be able to identify some of the victims, he said.
Cundy said five people who had been reported as missing had now been found and were safe and well.
He said the death toll could still change if anyone reported as missing was found alive, of if anyone was found in the ruined tower who had not been reported as missing.
At a daily briefing with reporters, May's spokesperson said the terms of reference of a public inquiry into the tower blaze were being drafted.
"The prime minister is very aware that people want answers promptly and we want to get this going promptly, so that's our intention," the spokesperson said.
May did not support a proposal put forward by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, to seize unoccupied properties to rehouse survivors of the fire, the spokesperson said.