A five-month-long operation to recover and identify victims from the fire at a London high-rise building in June has come to an end, British police announced on Thursday. A total of 71 people were killed, including an unborn baby.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), which is also known as Scotland Yard, said in a statement that the last two victims were identified by the coroner on Wednesday. Everyone who died in the fire is now believed to have been recovered and identified.
“Specially trained officers from the Met, City of London Police and British Transport Police have been engaged in the mammoth search and recovery operation,” police said. “Every single flat on every single floor and every communal area has now been thoroughly and meticulously searched. This has included a full forensic fingertip search, with officers examining 15.5 tonnes of debris on each floor.”
Those killed includes Logan Gomes, a baby who was stillborn in hospital on the day of the fire.
More than 400 people were initially reported missing by the public, but it was soon determined that many of the names were in fact duplicates, with one person being listed 46 separate times. Some other people were reported missing under a number of different names or with small differences in spelling.
Police were heavily criticized for the lack of information in the days after the fire, fueling speculation that the death toll was likely to be far high. It took nearly a week for police to confirm that at least 79 people were presumed to have died in the fire, but it was later determined that the number was likely lower.
“Specialist teams working inside Grenfell Tower and the mortuary have pushed the boundaries of what was scientifically possible to identify people,” Commander Stuart Cundy said. “After the fire was finally put out I entered Grenfell Tower and was genuinely concerned that due to the intensity and duration of the fire, that we may not find, recover and then identify all those who died.”
During the investigation, some people were found to have been reported missing by individuals seeking to benefit financially from the tragedy. One man had said both his wife and son were inside the building, but police determined that the claim was false. He pleaded guilty to fraud earlier this month.
“There are a number of ongoing fraud investigations and it would be inappropriate for police to provide further details at this time,” Scotland Yard said. A criminal investigation to determine the circumstances of the fire is also continuing.
The fire began just before 1 a.m. on June 14 when firefighters were called to the 24-story apartment building in west London. Many residents were trapped inside as a massive fire engulfed the building in less than 30 minutes, making it one of Britain’s deadliest fires in modern history.
Surveillance footage showed 223 people escaping from Grenfell Tower after the fire had broken out. As a result, investigators now believe that a total of 293 people were inside the building when the fire started. More than 70 of those who survived were taken to hospital for treatment.
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