In the days after a fire swept through Grenfell Tower last June, it was hard to identify the number and names of the victims. There was no master list of who was in the tower when the blaze started shortly after 1 a.m. There are records of tenants. But some weren’t home, and others had guests.
At the time, police estimated that 80 people had died. But in the absence of concrete facts, rumors swirled. One website falsely reported that a baby was found alive inside the apartment building 12 days after the fire. As the building burned, someone tweeted a picture of Mexican YouTube star Pirata de Culiacan, claiming that he was missing. (He was, in fact, safely in Mexico.)
Even after the fire was extinguished, police struggled. Initially, they compiled a list of more than 400 missing people.
But since June, officers have been doing a slow, steady accounting of what happened that night. They searched every apartment and common area. They’ve reviewed 15.5 tons of debris. They’ve watched hours of security camera footage to identify who, exactly, managed to leave the tower that night. And they whittled down the missing persons reports. That initial list included multiple reports of the same people, with slight variations on the spelling of their names. It also included names fraudulently reported by criminals looking to cash in on the tragedy. (Earlier this month, a man pleaded guilty to falsely claiming that his wife and son had died in the fire.)
On Wednesday, police announced that they had accounted for everyone in the building at the time of the blaze. The total death count, they said, was 71. That number includes Logan Gomes, a stillborn baby born at the hospital the day the blaze broke out. A family of six was also killed by the fire, along with three families of five. One mother died clutching her infant daughter. The oldest victim was an 84-year-old woman.
There were 293 people in the tower at the time of the fire, police said. Not all were residents. “There was only one way in and out of the tower,” Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy told BBC News. “Footage shows 223 people came out and survived.”
Cundy said the police will continue their search and recovery operation, though its “highly unlikely” that anyone remains inside the tower. The police are also investigating reported thefts from seven apartments in the tower post fire.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Amanda Erickson