London fire: 58 missing, presumed dead – police

A total of 58 people are dead or missing, presumed dead following the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in west London, police have said.

Commander Stuart Cundy said that number “may increase”. The BBC understands it could be around 70 people in total.

The recovery operation at the burnt-out block of flats has resumed and could take weeks, he said.

Meanwhile, PM Theresa May admitted support for families in the “initial hours” was “not good enough”.

The statement came after Mrs May met some of the people made homeless by the fire and volunteer helpers in Downing Street.

As they left Number 10, one representative spoke to reporters briefly, saying they would not make a full statement yet.

“We will be making this in the community, with the community,” he said. “We have had two-and-a-half hours with the prime minister in the last 48 hours and spoke about demands and what we expect.”

Earlier, residents caught up in the fire condemned the relief effort as “absolute chaos”.

In her statement, Mrs May said: “Frankly, the support on the ground for families who needed help or basic information in the initial hours after this appalling disaster was not good enough.”

She said phone lines would be better staffed and more staff would be deployed in the area.

They would wear high-visibility clothing so they can easily be found, dispense advice and ensure the right support is provided, she added.

Mrs May also said she expected to announce the name of the judge for a public inquiry within the next few days. The inquiry will report back to the prime minister.

She has also told councils to complete urgent safety checks on similar tower blocks.

In the latest police update, Commander Cundy appealed again for anyone who managed to escape from the building to let authorities know they were safe.

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Pictures and footage showing the inside of the tower would be released on Sunday to help people understand why the search was taking so long, he said.

The search of the building was briefly stalled for safety reasons but resumed on Saturday.

“As soon as we can, we will locate and recover loved ones,” he said.

‘UK resolute’

In her official birthday message, the Queen reflected on the “sombre national mood” following tragedies in London and Manchester in recent weeks.

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She said, in an unprecedented statement, that she had been “profoundly struck by the immediate inclination of people throughout the country to offer comfort and support to those in desperate need”.

“Put to the test, the United Kingdom has been resolute in the face of adversity,” she said.

In other developments:

  • A minute’s silence was observed by the Queen at the Trooping the Colour parade to remember the victims
  • Mrs May’s new taskforce, made up of central government and Kensington and Chelsea council representatives, met
  • Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, led an adoration and mass in memory of the victims at St Pius X Church
  • The Circle line and Hammersmith and City underground lines, which run close to the tower, are partly suspended due to a “short-term risk of some debris falling onto the tracks”

Mrs May has come in for a barrage of criticism over her response to the disaster, including being jeered when she visited the North Kensington estate on Friday.

On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of protesters gathered in Whitehall, to call for her resignation.

First Secretary of State Damian Green has defended the prime minister, saying she was as “distraught as we all are”.

The government has committed £5m for clothes, food and emergency supplies for the victims.

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The BBC’s Matthew Price said senior members of the residents’ association described an “absolute chaos” of “no organisation” from officials.

Some residents said they no longer want Kensington and Chelsea council involved in any way.

He added: “They do not believe they are capable of managing the response. Such is the total and utter lack of trust.”

Reverend Mike Long, from Notting Hill Methodist Church, said people in the community were angry and bewildered, and had lots of questions.

“They feel they’re not being listened to and what they have been saying has not been listened to, and they don’t know how to be able to express those things at the moment,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

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So far in the investigation:

  • Six victims have been provisionally identified by police
  • Three have been named so far, including Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali, 23., five-year-old Isaac Shawo, and artist Khadija Saye
  • Of those killed, one died in hospital
  • Nineteen people remain in hospital, 10 in critical care
  • A criminal investigation has been launched
  • UK councils are carrying out urgent reviews of their tower blocks, the Local Government Association says
  • A British Red Cross appeal is launched to raise money for those affected
  • The emergency number for people concerned about friends and family is 0800 0961 233

The fire broke out at the 24-storey block, which contained 120 one and two-bedroom flats, shortly before 01:00 BST on Wednesday.

It tore through all floors of the building and took more than 200 firefighters 24 hours to bring under control.

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