London tower blaze toll rises to 79
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London tower blaze toll rises to 79

The death toll in the devastating fire in London’s Grenfell Tower has risen to 79 and police say the number of dead may change as investigations progress.

world Updated: Jun 19, 2017 17:21 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
London tower fire,Prime Minister Theresa May,Grenfell Tower
A church spire stands in the foreground of Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, London, on June 19, 2017. (ReutersS)

Scotland Yard on Monday confirmed at least 79 people perished in last week’s blaze in west London but said it may not be possible to identify all the dead due to the intensity of the fire in the wealthy Kensington and Chelsea borough.

The blaze not only raised a series of questions about levels of inequality in London and British society, but also singed politics afterPrime Minister Theresa May wasbarracked for her allegedly cold response to the tragedy.

The number of the dead may change as investigations progress, police said.

Separate inquiries have been ordered by the police and government, as the media published images on Monday of the charred remains inside the 24-storey Grenfell Tower. Several people remained in hospitals.

Kensington and Chelsea ranks among the wealthiest boroughs in the UK, but also includes pockets that are among the most deprived, including the area around the tower.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for homes to be " requisitioned if necessary” to house those left homeless by the disaster: “It is hardly acceptable that inLondonyou have luxury buildings and luxury flats kept empty, as land banks for the future, while the homeless and the poor look for somewhere to live.”

Members of emergency services work inside the burnt out remains of the Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, London, on June 18, 2017. (Reuters)

Official data suggests the Kensington and Chelsea borough has more empty properties than any other borough in London, numbering nearly 1,400 properties classified as “long-term vacant” or empty for more than six months.

Gavin Barwell, former housing minister and now May’s chief of staff after losing the recent election, came under focus for alleged inaction on an inquiry report into a similar fire inLondon. Labour MP David Lammy alleged the incident amounted to “corporate manslaughter”.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince William visited the disaster site, which was compared to the visit of May, who confined herself to speaking to police and fire brigade officials and not the victims. May later met victims in Downing Street and announced a relief package.

First Published: Jun 19, 2017 15:34 IST