Grenfell Tower fire death toll rises to 79
Fifth victim of London disaster named as footage from inside the building is released
A 52-year-old woman has become the fifth victim of the Grenfell Tower fire to be named, after Scotland Yard announced the death toll from the blaze had risen to 79.
The woman, Khadija Khalloufi, who lived in Grenfell Tower, had not been seen since a huge blaze destroyed the 24-storey tower block in west London last Wednesday.
Scotland Yard have also announced that tower residents Ya-Haddy Sisi Saye (24), also known as Khadija Saye, Abufars Ibrahim (39) and Anthony Disson (65) are among the victims.
Five victims have been formally identified, including 23-year-old Mohammed Alhajali and a woman whose family do not want her name to be released.
The rest are missing, presumed dead, Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy said on Monday.
In a statement, the family of Mr Disson said: “Our family are devastated at receiving the news that Tony sadly did not survive the fire at Grenfell Tower.
“Tony leaves behind a large family, his wife, sons and grandchildren, including one grandchild he will never get to meet.
“We miss him terribly, and are pulling together as a family and trying to stay strong under these tragic circumstances. We ask at this time that our family are left to grieve in private.”
Mr Cundy told reporters the “awful reality” was that it might not be possible to identify all the victims. Some families have lost more than one member, he added.
The announcement came ahead of a minute’s silence held across all government buildings to remember the people who lost their lives and all those affected by the fire in north Kensington last week.
At an improvised memorial wall covered in messages of grief and solidarity close to Grenfell Tower, firefighters and members of the local community stood together, some crying, as they observed the minute’s silence.
One firefighter embraced a distraught woman who had photos of a missing person printed on her top.
A red T-shirt with London fire brigade’s logo had been placed by the memorial wall, with the name of a nearby fire station and the words, “We tried, we’re sorry”, scrawled on it.
Mr Cundy said the death toll may still change, but not as significantly as it has in recent days. He fought back tears as he told reporters about the scene inside the tower.
Footage from inside the gutted building has been released, showing the extent of the damage caused by the blaze.
He said it had been “incredibly emotional working in there”, adding: “On Saturday, I went in myself and went to the top floor. And it is incredibly hard to describe the devastation in some parts of that building.”
Five people who had been reported missing after the disaster have been found safe and well, he added.
He said police had received some 70 pictures and videos of the fire from the public and urged them to send more as officers investigate the blaze.
He would not be drawn on the specifics of the criminal investigation of the fire, including whether anyone had been arrested or raids carried out.
As anger continued in the wake of the disaster, described by London mayor Sadiq Khan as a “preventable accident”, the government announced on Sunday that those left homeless will be given at least £5,500 (€6,300) each from an emergency fund.
Residents will be given £500 in cash followed by a bank payment for the rest from Monday, with the money coming from the £5 million fund announced by British prime minister Theresa May on Friday.
Speaking outside Scotland Yard, Mr Cundy added: “I have investigated major crime for most of my service and I have seen some terrible things. But I don’t think anything prepared me for what I was going to see when I was in there.
“It’s hard to describe my feelings, because I cannot imagine, and I would not want to put myself in the position of those families who have lost their loved ones.
“But being with colleagues from the London fire brigade when I was in there, colleagues from the London ambulance service and other police officers, I think it’s fair to say it is incredibly emotional working in there.
“But we will do it with our utmost professionalism and we will do everything we can as quickly as we can to locate everybody who is in there.”
Criticism of government
Emergency services have been widely praised for their response to the fire, but the local community has accused the government of a slow and inadequate reaction.
Ms May has come under personal attack for failing to meet residents during her first visit to the site of the fire.
At a daily briefing with reporters, Ms May’s spokeswoman said that on a second visit to the area, during which the prime minister was booed and heckled, Ms May had listened carefully to the experiences of those on the ground.
“That’s why she totally accepted that it [the government response] hadn’t been good enough. She understood that immediate action needed to be taken to speed things up, and that’s what she’s done,” the spokeswoman said.
She said the terms of reference of a public inquiry into the blaze were being drafted and the government had now contacted all local authorities in England to ask them to identify any safety concerns in light of the tragedy.
Ms May’s spokeswoman said later on Monday that staff from five government departments are now working on the ground, including officials from the foreign office.
A pledge that survivors would be re-housed locally would be met within three weeks, she said, adding that reports of people being offered homes hundreds of miles away were false.
However, Ms May did not support a proposal put forward by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition British Labour Party, to seize unoccupied properties to re-house survivors of the fire, the spokeswoman said.
“Occupy it, compulsory purchase it, requisition it - there’s a lot of things you can do,” Mr Corbyn said on Sunday during an interview on ITV.
PA and Reuters