Toll rises to 79 as London fire affects dozens of migrant families

By AT editor - 20 June 2017 at 8:40 am
Toll rises to 79 as London fire affects dozens of migrant families

Police in London say at least 79 people have died in the London Grenfell Tower blaze, including many who remain missing but are presumed dead.

Another 10 people remain in critical condition following the massive fire that swept through the 24-story residential tower, with 19 people all told still in hospital for treatment, the latest update from the Metropolitan Police said. 

A number of the victims were believed to be of African descent, in a part of the city that his home to large Moroccan, Ethiopian, Eritrean and Somali populations. They include Khadija Saye, right, a London-born photographer with Gambian ties who is one of the few fatalities to be confirmed so far.

Others include Anthony Disson, 65, and Abufars Ibrahim, 39, both male; and a 52-year-old woman, Khadija Khalloufi.

Police released the first official name on Saturday, and said Syrian refugee Mohammad Alhajali, 23, was unable to escape from the towers and died. Many of the Grenfell Tower occupants were migrants and refugees.

Recovery of the victims has been complicated by the extent of the damage, police said. “The ongoing search and rescue operation being carried out by joint specialist teams from the London Fire Brigade, London Ambulance Service and the Met had to stop yesterday afternoon due to serious concerns about the safety of those recovering bodies due to the overwhelming damage caused by the fire,” they said.

Those teams returned Saturday for a process that may take weeks. The Grenfell Tower had 120 housing units, and is believed to have been home to between 400 and 600 people.

Friends and family had been frantically searching for the missing, posting their images and contact information on social media sites including Facebook and Twitter. Police warned in an earlier statement that it will be a lengthy process to locate and identify all of the victims.

Witnesses said they watched people jumping from the building, tossing their children down for people below to catch, or sharing images and video livestreamed from within the apartments they were trapped in.

British officials have promised a full investigation into the fire, which occurred in a building with a history of complaints and concerns over the fire risk. The blaze has caused outrage among Londoners who are protesting in the streets and demanding answers and accountability from elected officials.

Image: London Fire Bureau

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