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London fire: Death toll climbs to 79

19 June 2017

The Grenfell Tower fire was a "preventable accident" caused by "years of neglect" by the local council and successive governments, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said yesterday.

Mr Cundy said the police investigation into the blaze would look at the building and its refurbishment in 2016 and vowed to prosecute people if there was evidence.

"Sadly at this time, there are 58 people who we have been told were in Grenfell Tower on the night that are missing and therefore sadly I have to assume that they are dead", said Commander Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police.

The 58 who were estimated on Saturday to have died included the 30 who have been confirmed dead. It's an increase from the previous number of 58.

"I would like to reassure everybody that we will be looking at all criminal offences that might have been committed by any individual or any organisation", said Cdr Cundy. Britain's Press Association says around 70 people are missing.

British health authorities say that 19 fire survivors are still being treated at London hospitals, and 10 of them remain in critical condition.

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A resident in a nearby building watches smoke rise from a building on fire in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017.

Prime Minister Theresa May, under pressure for keeping a distance from angry residents on a visit to the charred remains of the 24-storey block last week, has previously said that the response to the disaster was "not good enough".

While they welcomed the funding, a group of residents who met Mrs May in Downing Street at the weekend said they had not been consulted before the latest announcement, adding that it continued a "tendency to sideline residents' views". They would wear high-visibility clothing so they could easily be found, dispense advice and ensure the right support is provided, she added.

Matthew Parris, a columnist and former Conservative lawmaker, said May's response to the fire had shown a lack of judgment which made her unsuitable to be prime minister.

He says it may be necessary for numerous outmoded tower blocks built in the 1970s to be demolished because of safety concerns.

Three appeals on the JustGiving site have helped to raise the 3 million pounds, and London's Evening Standard newspaper has launched a separate appeal that has raised at least 1.5 million pounds ($1.9 million) by Saturday morning.

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The burned-out apartments were once home to hundreds of families.

Anger flared in the Kensington community over the weekend - with many protests taking place across the capital - as some accused the authorities of withholding information and responding inadequately.

One focus is the exterior cladding used in the renovation: Senior ministers of the British government say it appears to have been banned under United Kingdom building codes.

Writing in the Observer newspaper, Khan says it may well be the "defining outcome of this tragedy that the worst mistakes" of that era become a thing of the past.

"It is really important that we are clear about the scale of the challenge facing us as our teams search Grenfell Tower to recover those people still inside and return them to their loved ones".

Officials don't believe the concrete structure is in imminent danger of collapse despite the extensive fire damage, but fears about falling debris have led to the partial closure of two London subway lines.

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