“I’m afraid to say there are now 79 people that we believe are either dead or missing and I sadly have to presume are dead,” London Police Commander Stuart Cundy told reporters on Monday.
Police had earlier put the toll from the inferno at the Grenfell Tower in west London at 58 presumed dead.
Cundy said five of the dead have been formally identified. But authorities had already suggested that they might never be able to identify many of the victims due to the intensity of the fire.
Cundy said the search and recovery operation was ongoing in the charred 24-story tower.
“This is an incredibly distressing time for families and they have my commitment that we will do this as quickly as we possibly can,” he said.
The fire broke out in the early hours of Wednesday in the social housing block in trapping residence inside.
The government of British Prime Minister Theresa May has said it is working to initiate a public inquiry into the disaster promptly.
The prime minister has been facing public anger over her administration’s slow and inadequate response to the incident.
Cundy on Monday promised an “exhaustive” criminal investigation into the tragedy.
“We will go where the evidence may take us,” and do everything possible “to ensure that those responsible will be brought to justice,” he said.
“If I identify… an issue that is a risk to public safety, we will be sharing that immediately with the relevant authorities,” he added.
According to some local residents, there were about 600 residents at the 120-apartment building when the fire broke out, and they say that not many could have escaped because the blaze engulfed the entire building rapidly.
So, the residents are claiming that the final death toll could be much higher than what British authorities are giving.