Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said on Thursday that the death toll in the blaze that engulfed a residential tower in west London has climbed up to 17 lives and is expected to rise further.
“Thirty-seven people remain in hospital, including 17 in critical condition, Cundy said. London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton said it “could take weeks” for firefighters to complete a search of the gutted, 24-storey Grenfell Tower.
“I want to be realistic, this could be a long process,” Cotton said, speaking alongside Cundy.
Cotton said that many of the 250 firefighters who tackled the blaze were traumatised by the “horrendous” scenes they found.
He said that the officers had seen people jumping and throwing children from windows at the 120-home social housing block.
“I spoke to one of my officers who was very near when someone came out of the window, and he was in tears, and he is a professional fire officer.
“We like to think of ourselves as roughy, toughy, and heroes, they are heroes, but they have feelings, and people were absolutely devastated by yesterday’s events.
“It was the worst thing I have ever seen, it was a horrendous, major incident of a large scale that involved so many people, and it was beyond belief.
“Words cannot describe it, it was just that truly awful,” Cotton said.
He said that the firefighters have not been able to conduct a comprehensive search of the 24-storey block of flats that went up in the flames because it is not safe for them to walk to the edges of the building.
Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Theresa May and other politicians have paid tribute to the firefighters.
The Fire Brigades Union, which represents most of Britain’s firefighters, earlier said the firefighters and other emergency personnel were “doing a particularly difficult job.”
The union said, “the firefighters are witnessing brutal and tragic scenes with the professionalism we have come to expect from them.”