WASHINGTON, June 17, 2017 — As protestors gather outside Prime Minister Theresa May’s office today, officials are announcing that 58 people are still missing and presumed dead in the Grenfell Tower fire. That number was passed on by Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy, as reported by The Independent.
In addition to those 58 souls, there are 19 still hospitalized with ten people in critical condition as a result of the blaze that broke out shortly before 01:00 BST on Wednesday.
The fire quickly engulfed the 24 story building that had 20 residential floors and four levels of community areas along with a some flats. The fire quickly burned up the sides of the building, and it took more than 200 firefighters 24 hours to bring it under control.
The building had been refurbished in 2016.
The bodies of 16 people have been recovered from the building and taken to a mortuary, according to Cundy. The figure of 58 missing may rise if there were other people in the tower, visitors to the 127 flats that they do not yet know about.
According to various reports, six victims of the blaze have been provisionally identified by police.
The victims’ stories are all tragic, including the story of architect Gloria Trevisan who was on the phone with her family in Italy when she died in the inferno. “Gloria died while on the phone with her mother,” family attorney Maria Cristina Sandrin told CNN. She told them, “I am going to heaven; I will help you from up there.”
Marco Gottardi, Gloria Trevisan’s boyfriend, was also on the phone with his family at the time of the fire and their deaths.
One woman threw her baby from the 8th or 9th floor to the gathering crowd below; a man was able to catch the infant.
The BBC reports that three victims have been identified:
Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali, believed to have been 23, came to the UK in 2014 and was studying civil engineering while living in North Kensington.
Syria Solidarity Campaign said:
“[He] undertook a dangerous journey to flee war and death in Syria, only to meet it here in the UK, in his own home.”
He had been in a flat on the 14th floor with his brother Omar, but the pair lost each other in their attempt to leave the building; Mohammed then returned to the flat where he waited to be rescued, speaking to a friend in Syria before he died.
His family said in a statement released by police:
“Mohammed was a very amazing and kind person. He gave love to everyone. He came to the UK because he had ambitions and aims for his life and for his family.
“Our whole family will miss Mohammed dearly and he will never be forgotten. To God we belong and to him we return.”
Mr. Alhajali and his brother planned to join in on the Syria Solidarity Campaign held today, taking part in The Great Get Together, celebrating the life of murdered MP Jo Cox and marking Refugee Week.
Five-year-old Isaac Shawo, described by his mother as a “beautiful boy” was a pupil at Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Primary School. He lived in Grenfell Tower with parents Genet Shawo and Paulos Petakle and brother Luca, who is three.
He reportedly got separated from his family in the smoke and is among those presumed dead.
Artist and photographer Khadija Saye, 24, whose artwork is being shown in the Venice Biennale, lived on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower with her mother, Mary Mendy. Ms. Saye was on the brink of receiving international acclaim for her work. Her death was confirmed by Labour MP David Lammy:
May you rest in peace Khadija Saye. God bless your beautiful soul. My heart breaks today. I mourn the tragic loss of a wonderful young woman pic.twitter.com/KdIPs34FvA
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) June 16, 2017
Lammy called Ms. Saye a “talented artist”. Her work in Venice is based on Gambian spiritual practices.
A criminal investigation has been launched, with police saying the cause of the fire was unlikely to be arson. The fires quick movement up the building and the smoke that stopped victims from escaping down stairs, was caused by what fire safety expert Elvin Edwards called a “chimney effect” fanned by winds. There is also questions as to whether the building had an adequate fire warning system.
The cladding, or the tower’s facade, was installed in a recent renovation and may have not been fire resistant, or not as fire resistant as it should have been for a building of this height. Improper cladding installation can create pockets between the building and the exterior, drawing flames up the cavity if there are no fire barriers.
According to The Department for Communities and Local Government, if the cladding used was a composite aluminium panel with a polyethylene core, it would be non-compliant with current building regulations guidance.
Mahad Egal, who escaped his fourth floor flat with his family, said in an interview, “At first it seemed it was controllable, but really quickly the fire started to rise as the cladding caught fire. It is incredible we survived.”
The cladding used on the building will be a subject of the investigations into the fire’s cause.
Just one of the efforts on behalf of the victims of Grenfell Tower:
— Héctor Bellerín (@HectorBellerin) June 17, 2017