UK

Grenfell Tower Death Toll: How Many Are Dead And What You Need To Know About Conspiracy Theories

There have been a lot of questions over the official figure.

19/06/2017 15:41 BST | Updated 20/06/2017 11:46 BST

“They’re down-playing the number of dead,” one local resident told HuffPost UK. “They’re not telling us the real figure because they know we will be angry.”

As the number of people dead and missing presumed dead following the Grenfell Tower disaster rose to 79 on Monday - five days after the inferno engulfed the 24-storey building - dozens of residents are still waiting for news about their missing loved ones. 

Walk around west London and you will be faced with hundreds of posters appealing for information about those still missing following Wednesday’s tragedy.

PA Wire/PA Images
Water is sprayed on Grenfell Tower in west London after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building.

Although there are stories of hope, such as five people believed to have been missing now found “safe and well”, there are growing conspiracies as to the true number of deceased.

Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said the search operation will be “painstaking” and that the complex investigation will take many weeks to conclude.

But many aren’t satisfied with this response, calling for a quicker release of information and accusing the media and authorities of lying about the true number of deceased.

How many people are officially dead and missing? 

Police said that five of the 79 people dead and missing presumed dead have been formally identified.

PA Wire/PA Images
Tributes and missing posters are left on a wall near Latimer Road, close to Grenfell Tower.

Why isn’t the official figure higher?

With hundreds of people living in the tower, residents have voiced their concerns that the number will be much higher than 79.

Yet despite the number of dead likely to increase, the authorities do not release the official number until they are certain.

Commander Cundy said on Monday that, due to the intensity of the fire, investigators may not be able to identify everybody that has died.

PA Wire/PA Images
Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy says police may not be able to identify everybody that has died.

How many people were in the building at the time of the fire?

We don’t know. There were 120 homes in the high-rise, with the number of occupants varying. 

Authorities are working to establish how many residents were at home during the fire and whether there were any guests in the building at the time.

The Grenfell Fire Response Team has confirmed that 201 households have received emergency accommodation to date.

A spokesman from the response team said that survivors they have temporarily rehomed have been rehoused locally in the area.

What are the conspiracy theories and why don’t they stand up?

Local resident and volunteer DJ Isla claimed in a clip viewed more than 9.8 million times on Facebook that the aid effort for Grenfell Tower victims is in vain as “everyone’s died”.

Questioning the reason for the relief effort, she said: “Where is everyone [the residents]? Where are the victims? Why are we [the volunteers] doing this?”.

She added: “Fifteen minutes it took to burn. Who’s alive? Where are they? Where are the victims? I haven’t met one and I’ve been here for two days.”

Yet relief organisations are providing emergency accommodation for more than 200 households. 

The Grenfell Fire Response Team said that they are assessing the housing needs of all Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk families to “identify suitable accommodation in Kensington and Chelsea and neighbouring borough”.

So far, 126 hotel placements have been found for Grenfell Towers and Grenfell Walk residents.

Others have accused the media of under reporting, or suppressing, the true death toll.

Most of the media are using the police figures as guidance, as many people are still officially issuing.

Victims have to be found and identified. Their families are then informed.

While this process is taking place, it would be irresponsible to start peddling unsubstantiated figures until the official number has been released.

And officials are warning that it may be impossible to identify everyone killed in the blaze.

PA Wire/PA Images
People look at tributes at Notting Hill Methodist Church near Grenfell Tower in west London.

What has the official response been like?

There’s no doubt that the official response on the ground has been chaotic, adding to the public’s scepticism and mistrust of authorities.

Prime Minister Theresa May admitted at the weekend that the support for victims of the inferno was “not good enough”.

While the community and volunteers have turned up in their thousands to help the relief effort, residents asked HuffPost UK on Friday: “Why does it fall onto our community’s shoulders to organise everything?

“Why did it take more than 24 hours to have a designated area for all these car packs and donations coming to us... it shouldn’t have taken as long as it has.”

Although there is growing hostility towards Kensington and Chelsea borough council and TMO, both of whom were criticised for their alleged lack of presence in the aftermath of the blaze, firefighters have been praised for their work.

Firefighters were given a hero’s goodbye as they left the scene on Sunday, with local residents applauding the servicemen and servicewomen. 

It was also announced at the weekend that residents whose homes were destroyed will receive a Government down-payment of at least £5,500 from Monday.

The money comes from the £5 million government emergency fund previously announced, and support workers will help those who need it access it.

By Monday, £202,000 of Government funds had been distributed to 180 families.

These are being made up of a £500 cash payment and £5,000 delivered through DWP into bank accounts or similar in a single payment.

The cash payment is available now – either at the Westway Centre, or through the Post Office in Portobello Road. The £5,000 payment is available and assigned key workers will assist households in accessing this.