NEWS

Grenfell Tower Fire Victim Count Increases, Police Investigate Possible Crimes

06/19/2017 06:59 EDT | Updated 06/19/2017 07:00 EDT

London police said Monday that 79 people were now believed to have died in the high-rise apartment building fire.

Police Commander Stuart Cundy gave the new figure during a statement outside Scotland Yard, saying it includes both people who were confirmed dead and others who are missing and presumed dead. It's an increase from the previous number of 58.

The new number may change as the investigation continues, Cundy said. He said that the search and recovery operation in the 24-story Grenfell Tower continues, he said, adding that it has been incredibly distressing for families.

grenfell tower A woman walks by missing person posters near The Grenfell Tower block, destroyed by fire, on Friday. (Photo: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters)

"It's hard to describe the devastation the fire has caused,'' Cundy said, fighting back tears as he spoke.

He said it had been 'incredibly emotional working in there ... On Saturday, I went in myself and went to the top floor.''

He told reporters the "awful reality'' was that it might not be possible to identify all the victims.

Cundy said that authorities were continuing to investigate whether any crimes had been committed in the fire. Two British officials said Sunday that new exterior cladding used in a renovation of the high-rise may have been banned under U.K. building regulations.