LONDON — The toll from the Grenfell Tower fire rose to 79 confirmed or presumed dead on Monday, as the British government vowed to expedite an inquiry into the causes of London’s worst building fire in decades.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said that the terms of reference for the inquiry were being drafted, and that Mrs. May wanted answers quickly. The prime minister’s office has also contacted all local authorities in England asking them to identify any safety concerns in light of the tragedy, it said. It added that Mrs. May did not support a proposal by the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, to seize unoccupied properties to rehouse survivors of the fire.
The inquiry — and a related criminal investigation — are likely to examine several factors, including the absence of sprinklers and of a centralized alarm system in the building (not uncommon for residential blocks as old as Grenfell Tower, which was built in 1974); the guidance given to residents to “stay put” and await instructions if a fire broke out in someone else’s unit; and the role that exterior cladding, installed during a renovation completed last year, might have played in the extraordinarily rapid spread of the blaze.
Many residents of the tower block are still unaccounted for, and the police have said that, because of the intensity of the fire, some remains may never be identified.
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