At least 58 people are missing and presumed dead after Wednesday’s high-rise fire in London, British police said on Saturday as work to recover the victims continued. The number of missing could still increase.
Commander Stuart Cundy, of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), said at least 58 people who are known to have been inside the building when the fire broke out have been reported missing. This includes 30 people whose bodies have been located.
“We’ve worked tirelessly over the last 4 days to deal with the huge number of calls that we’ve received in our Casualty Bureau. Over 6,000 calls have been received by the police,” Cundy said. “At this time, there are 58 people, who we have been told were in Grenfell Tower on the night, that are missing and therefore, sadly, I have to assume that they are dead.”
Authorities had previously declined to say how people were missing, although British media reported on Friday that more than 70 people are thought to have died in the massive blaze. Cundy acknowledged in Saturday’s statement that the number 58 could still increase even further.
“I really hope it won’t but it may increase,” Cundy said. “Our focus has been on those that we know were in there, that we’ve been told were in Grenfell Tower. However, there may be other people who were in there on the night that others were not aware were there.”
At least 30 bodies have been located as of Saturday, of which 16 bodies have been recovered, including one person who died in hospital. Only one victim has been formally identified so far: 23-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammad Alhajali. Police said Alhajali is included in the figure of 58.
“Mohammad was a very amazing and kind person. He gave love to everyone,” Alhajali’s family said in a brief statement on Saturday. “He came to the UK because he had ambitions and aims for his life and for his family. Our whole family will miss Mohammad dearly and he will never be forgotten.”
Search and recovery work was suspended on Friday over concerns about the building’s safety, but work resumed on Saturday afternoon. Cundy said the work inside the building is “challenging” and will likely take “many, many weeks.”
In addition to those killed and missing, 19 people remained in hospital on Saturday night, of whom 10 continue to be in a critical condition. The nearly 80 people who were treated for injuries as a result of the fire have all been identified.
The fire began just before 1 a.m. on Wednesday 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 decades.
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