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London tower block fire deadliest in UK this century

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
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The Grenfell Tower disaster is now the deadliest fire in mainland Britain since they started keeping close records at the start of the 20th century, European researchers stated yesterday. The Emergency Events Database at the Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium compiles natural and man-made disasters around the world. The database tracks fires from 1900 to the present. It said that the Grenfell fire ranks above the fire at Bradford City Stadium in northern England on May 11, 1985, when flames swept through the wooden stands and killed 56 people.

Seventy-nine people are dead or missing and presumed dead following a devastating blaze in a London tower, police said Monday, as Britain held a minute's silence for the victims. The National Health Service said that 17 patients were still being treated in hospital, of whom nine remain in critical condition.

"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," police commander Stuart Cundy told reporters. Police had earlier put the toll from Wednesday's inferno at 58 presumed dead. He said only five people had been formally identified so far by police. Officers had earlier warned that some may never be identified due to the condition of their remains.

Cundy said the search and recovery operation was ongoing in the burnt-out 24-storey tower, which was built in 1974 and had received a major refurbishment that was completed last year.

"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. Cundy promised an "exhaustive" criminal investigation into the fire that would also look at the refurbishment.

"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.

The fire has prompted warnings about fire safety risks in many other council tower blocks built in the same era.

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