Death toll from fatal London tower blaze may never be known

Updated 2017-06-21 14:00:32 Xinhua

The death toll from the fatal tower block blaze in West London last week may never be known, because some of the apartments in the building may have been irregularly sublet, according to a local lawyer.

At least 79 people lost their lives due to the blaze that destroyed the 24-story tower block in the Kensington district of the city last Wednesday, according to the London Metropolitan Police.

The police said the death toll was expected to rise.

However, Victoria Vasey, director of the North Kensington Law Centre, told local media that because of the irregular property tenancies in the building, it was impossible to accurately know how many people were in the building at the time of the blaze.

"A lot of people were irregular in their tenancies and some were subletting. Some of them were illegal subtenancies," Vasey said.

The apartments in the building were rented to families and people nominated by local authority the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelesea (RBKC) as part of its legal obligations to provide housing.

The rents of the tenancies were below market levels. Some tenants may have sublet their tenancies illegally to make money.

The weekly Tuesday meeting of the government's cabinet discussed the continued response to the fire and aid for survivors.

"On Grenfell Tower, the secretary of state for communities and local government updated Cabinet on the efforts to ensure everything is being done to help victims' families and other survivors, as well as looking ahead to the longer-term recovery effort," said a spokesperson for the British government.

In line with Prime Minister Theresa May's commitment to providing additional government resources to strengthen response efforts on the ground, five government departments dispatched staff to the Grenfell Fire Response Team working in the incident area. Other departments also provided necessary assistance, the spokesperson said.

The Member of Parliament (MP) for the area Emma Dent-Coad told local media that survivors of the blaze have been sleeping in cars and in parks, because they don't know where to go and they aren't being looked after.

The RBKC's response in the wake of the fire has been strongly criticized by politicians and local media over the weekend. The British government has replaced it with a committee formed by charities and other municipal bodies in London.

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