Final Grenfell Tower death toll set at 70

Extensive damage is seen to the Grenfell Tower block which was destroyed in a fire disaster, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 15, 2017. Photo: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

LONDON - Seventy people died when a ferocious fire ripped through their London apartment block in June, British police concluded Thursday after a probe which "pushed the boundaries" of scientific investigation.

The devastating blaze spread rapidly through Grenfell Tower on June 14, with 293 people inside as the only escape route became filled with smoke.

London's Metropolitan Police set the final tally at 70 after the force concluded its "mammoth search and recovery operation".

READ: Grenfell Tower disaster: How did the fire spread so quickly?

The eldest named victim was 82-year-old Ali Jafari, while a number of children also died. A stillborn baby was also recorded by police as a victim, but was not included in the coroner's final figure.

"I cannot imagine the agony and uncertainty that some families and loved ones have been through whilst we have carried out our meticulous search, recovery and identification process," said police commander Stuart Cundy.

"Specialist teams working inside Grenfell Tower and the mortuary have pushed the boundaries of what was scientifically possible to identify people," he added.

After the initial recovery of victims, investigators searched through 15.5 tonnes of debris on each floor to find fragments such as bones and teeth.

As well as using police dogs, forensic anthropologists, archaeologists and odontologists were brought in for the unprecedented operation.

Early on in the investigation police said they expected the death toll to be around 80, after narrowing down an initial 400 people listed as missing.

READ: London's Notting Hill Carnival remembers Grenfell Tower fire

Multiple residents in the west-London block were reported missing several times, police said, while there were also a number of cases of fraud by people trying to cash in on funds allocated for the victims.

Earlier this month a 52-year-old man pleaded guilty to fraud after claiming he escaped the fire in which his wife and child supposedly died, recounting his fictional tale to investigators and journalists.

A public inquiry was launched following the blaze to examine the circumstances of the fire at Grenfell Tower, where predominantly working-class residents lived within Britain's wealthiest borough.

While it has taken five months to identify all of the victims, the police probe continues to determine if there was criminal responsibility behind the blaze.

"Our criminal investigation is continuing, and we are determined to do all we can to find the answers that so many people so desperately want," said Cundy.


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