London fire death toll rises to 17, many missing

The death toll in the fire that ripped through a 24-storey block of flats in London rose to 17 on Thursday. Many people are still missing and firefighters faced hazardous conditions as they searched the charred wreck.

Smoke was still wafting out of the shell of the Grenfell Tower on Thursday, and a Reuters cameraman saw a big piece of building cladding fall.

Fire engulfed the social housing block in the early hours of Wednesday, turning it into a flaming torch in minutes.

“Sadly I can confirm that the number of people that have died is now 17,” London police commander Stuart Cundy told reporters.

He said the number was expected to rise and firefighters have said they did not expect to find any more survivors after rescuing 65 from the inferno. Thirty-seven people remained in hospital, with 17 of them in critical care.

“Our absolute priority for all of us is identifying and locating those people who are still missing,” Mr. Cundy said before declining to comment on speculation about the likely final death toll: “It would be wrong for me to get into numbers that I do not believe are accurate.”

London Fire Brigade chief Dany Cotton said urban search units, backed by specialist dog teams, would scour the building as structural surveyors helped make the tower safe.

The cause of the blaze, the worst in the British capital in a generation, was being investigated. Speaking within weeks of London’s deadliest attack by militants in more than a decade, Mr. Cundy said nothing suggested that the fire was linked to terrorism.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who has promised an investigation into the disaster, visited the scene on Thursday to meet members of the emergency services, but left without making any public comment.

 

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