LONDON - London's fire chief said Thursday that authorities don’t expect to find anyone else alive after the high-rise blaze in Britain's capital early Wednesday and that they "genuinely don’t know" how many people died in the incident.
The death toll currently stands at 17, although that is expected to increase as emergency workers sift through more of the wreckage at the residential building in west London’s North Kensington district.
The fire also injured dozens of people, 18 of them critically.
Investigators are still searching for victims and the families of those unaccounted for have been appealing on social media for information. Witnesses described harrowing scenes as the building became an inferno with people, including children, jumping out of windows to escape the heat. Entire families may be missing.
The Grenfell Tower has 20 floors of apartments and 4 floors of mixed-used residential and office space. How many people were in the building during the fire has not been established. Up to 600 people lived in the building's 120 apartments.
Firefighters extinguished the last of the flames Thursday and the top floors of the building are still being searched, but London's fire commissioner Dany Cotton told Sky News that due to the intensity of the heat it would be "an absolute miracle for anyone to be left alive."
Around 200 firefighters respondent to the massive fire and Cotton said that some were traumatized. "We like to think of ourselves as ‘roughty, toughty’ and heroes —they are heroes — but they have feelings, and people were absolutely devastated."
Britain's monarch and the Duke of Edinburgh also spoke about the firefighters on Thursday. "Prince Philip and I would like to pay tribute to the bravery of firefighters and other emergency services officers who put their own lives at risk to save others," the queen said.
The cause of the blaze is under investigation, but a tenants’ group had complained for years about the risk of a fire.
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