Det. Supt. Fiona McCormack, who is leading the investigation, said, “We are many months from being able to provide a number which we believe accurately represents the total loss of life inside Grenfell Tower.
“Only after we have completed the search and recovery operation — which will take until the end of the year — and then months afterwards, when experts have carried out the identification process, will we be in a position to tell you who has died.”
McCormack added that a small number of flats are still unsafe to work in but police have spoken to people who lived, or have friends or relatives, in 106 of the tower’s apartments.
One of the biggest challenges facing investigators continues to be identifying and accounting anyone who may have been in the building that night. Authorities said they are using any sources available to them from “government agencies to fast-food delivery companies” to do so.
Police said that investigations have indicated that no one in 23 apartments spread between floors 11 to 23 survived the blaze.
“So — at this stage — we must presume that no one in those 23 flats survived. That would include those who lived there or any anyone who was visiting them,” said McCormack.
Authorities provided an update on the investigation as Prime Minister Theresa May announced that exterior cladding on 120 high-rise buildings across 37 local authority areas in England has failed fire safety checks.
Addressing the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday, May said, “So far 100% of the samples that have come in have proved to be combustible.”
In light of the tests conducted to date, she urged people to take preemptive action before results are returned and work with their local fire services to ensure that buildings are safe for residents.
Corbyn: Grenfell ‘must be wake-up call’
“When you cut local authority budgets by 40%, we all pay a price in public safety,” Corbyn railed amid cries of “shameful” and “apologize” from Conservative backbenchers. “Fewer building inspectors, fewer planning inspectors — we all pay a price … those cuts to the fire service have meant that there are 11,000 fewer firefighters.”
Corbyn slammed the “disastrous effects of austerity” and accused the government of continuing to “disregard working-class communities” and of “cutting corners.”
He continued: “I urge the Prime Minister to come up with the resources needed to test and remove cladding, retrofit sprinklers, properly fund the firefighters and police so that all our communities can truly feel safe in their own homes. This disaster must be a wake-up call.”
But May pushed back, defending both her party and the former coalition government to argue that “the cladding of tower blocks began under the (Tony) Blair government” and that fire regulation checks had been amended as the result of a 2005 Labour government initiative.
Queen’s Speech vote
Following the extended PMQs session — which ran around 20 minutes over its allotted half-hour — MPs gathered in the Commons for a debate on the Queen’s speech.
On Thursday, MPs will be asked to approve the policy agenda in a vote in the Commons, with many seeing the vote as more of a vote of confidence for May and her minority government.
“The Democratic Unionist Party has said they will support her in [the Queen’s speech vote]. But this deal is hugely controversial for a number of reasons, not least because May has agreed to pay more than a billion pounds to communities in Northern Ireland,” explained CNN Political analyst Carole Walker.
In a bid to stay in power, the Conservative Party announced a deal with Northern Ireland’s DUP last week. Almost immediately, criticism of the agreement erupted from leaders in Wales and Scotland who asked why Northern Ireland should get more funds but no additional spending is being directed towards their devolved areas.
But before a vote on the Queen’s speech can happen, May and her Conservative Party are facing calls to show the government’s commitment to ending austerity in the police and fire services. Corbyn’s Labour Party has tacked an amendment onto the Queen’s speech, calling for an end to a cap on public-sector pay.
A vote on the amendment is due to go ahead on Wednesday at around 7 p.m. local time.
CNN’s Claudia Rebaza contributed to this report.