Grenfell Tower Fire Victim Count Increases, Police Investigate Possible Crimes

The new exterior cladding used in a renovation on London's Grenfell Tower may have been banned under United Kingdom building regulations, two British ministers said Sunday as police continued their criminal investigation into the inferno that killed at least 58 people.

British media have reported that contractors installed a cheaper, less flame-resistant type of exterior paneling on the 24-story tower in a renovation that was completed just previous year. For police, fire and emergency crews inside the tower, "it is incredibly emotional working in there", Cundy said.

Cundy said the number includes 30 deaths that already have been confirmed, as well as reports of people who are missing and presumed to have died.

"We've worked tirelessly to establish how many people we believe were in Grenfell Tower on the night and at this point in time we are unable to say that they are safe or well", he said.

Community groups have said warnings about poor fire safety have been ignored, and in the aftermath of the disaster, officials have failed to take care of those affected, they said.

Cundy said the search and recovery operation was ongoing in the burnt-out 24-story tower.

"I've said before one of my absolute priorities is to identify people as quick as we can, to recover them from Grenfell Tower".

Commander Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police said that 16 bodies had been recovered from the 24-storey building in west London, but stressed that although investigators had reached the top of the tower the hard search could take weeks or longer because of the level of damage to the structure.

"If I identify.an issue that is a risk to public safety, we will be sharing that immediately with the relevant authorities", he said.

The family of five - thought to be Syrian - were caught up in the blaze which tore the 24-storey building in north Kensington last Wednesday. "Wherever we can, we will bring people to justice if there is evidence".

London mayor Sadiq Khan has said that tower blocks in the city built during the 1960s and 1970s could be torn down following the Grenfell Tower fire.

British Prime Minister Theresa May had come in for a barrage of criticism over her own response to the disaster.

She also noted that an emergency fund of more than $6 million has begun to be "distributed on the ground so people can buy clothes, food and other essentials".

All of those living in the apartment block who survived the blaze were made homeless by the tragedy, and many have lost loved ones as a result.

Vanessa Coleman

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