On 16 November, five months after the devastating Grenfell Tower fire, the Metropolitan Police announced that they had recovered the last of the bodies and that the total death toll was 71: seventy recovered from the tower plus one stillborn baby, delivered two months early in hospital on the morning of 14 June, while his mother was in an induced coma, having walked down 21 flights of stairs through thick, black cyanide laced smoke. All of those 71 have been identified.
The many claims that the police tried to hide the true number of deaths have been corrosive but understandable, as 400 were initially reported missing, and as the police initially only reported found and identified bodies, refusing to speculate the total death toll. Not until 19 June did the police dare to guess a number, and came to 79. At that point, they hadn’t even begun to sift through the debris on the upper floors, and had no clear picture of how many could have been in the building that night. Those believing the claims about 400 missing quickly dismissed the police’s guesstimate and announced that there must be at least 160 dead. The police later changed the expected death toll to be “about 80”, but in September the figure was revised down to 79 again.
It very quickly became obvious that it couldn’t be as many as 400 dead as more than 200 had been rescued. If there had been more than 600 persons in the building when the fire began, this would have meant on average five persons in each of the 127 flats. It eventually emerged that the figure of 400 missing was the result of numerous duplicate reports, where the same missing persons were reported by several different people, but under different names or with different name spellings. Sorting that out took a long time.
In September the police revealed that CCTV footage from the foyer of Grenfell Tower during the night and morning of the fire showed that “some 240 people” had escaped. This figure was later specified to be 223 people.
The Metropolitan Police still treats the site as a crime scene and will continue to investigate it for several more months.
By 4:20am on the morning of 14 June, the fire was still out of control, with flames 8-10 stories high on the southern side of Grenfell Tower. Five months later, the police established that 71 persons lost their life. Picture courtesy Natalie Oxford (CC BY 4.0)