London tower fire death rises to 79

2017-06-19 11:40:14 GMT2017-06-19 19:40:14(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

Floral tributes and messages for the victims of Grenfell Tower are seen in London, Britain, on June 16, 2017. (Xinhua/Ray Tang)

LONDON, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Police said Monday the number of dead or missing in the London Grenfell Tower fire has increased to 79.

Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy gave the new figures at a briefing, saying the death toll may still change, but not as significantly as it has in recent days.

The commander said a major investigation will be carried out into the fire which swept through the 24-floor tower block in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea on Wednesday.

Holding back tears, the experienced police officer said it had been incredibly emotional working in the tower, which used to be home to between 400 and 600 residents. "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."

The update came just before a nationwide minute's silence was held at 11 a.m. in memory of the victims of what is the greatest loss of life by fire in London since World War II.

Cundy said the police investigation by the Met will be wide ranging, looking at the construction of the building, the recent refurbishment, how it was managed and maintained, and fire safety measures.

He said: "I would like to reassure everybody that we will be looking at all criminal offences that might have been committed by any individual or any organization."

Cundy said his immediate priority was to identify the people who died in the building and to recover them as quickly as possible.

But he warned that not everyone would be identifiable after such a serious fire. The recovery operation is expected to take many weeks, he added.

Of those injured in the fire, 18 people remain in hospitals across London, nine of them in critical care.

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