The Metropolitan Police says it will take at least another four months to recover and identify the remains of victims of the Grenfell tower block fire.
At least 80 people are dead or missing but only 32 have been positively identified given the extremely delicate nature of the operation. More than 230 people managed to escape or survive.
Metropolitan Police Sergeant Alistair Hutchins explained how he’s been affected by the tragedy: “It’s difficult it’s probably the worst incident I’ve ever dealt with and I’ve been dealing with DVI (disaster victim identification) for 18 years. I’ve dealt with many incidents and I’ve never dealt with one harder both emotionally, physically and challenging to deal with.”
Footage released last week by the Metropolitan Police shows the full extent of the blaze but it only gives some indication of the difficultly investigators face to find human remnants.
“We’re looking at a fingertip search of all flats on all floors. That will involve officers on their hands and knees, using small trowels and shovels, they will be removing debris from those flats and using sieves. The sieves are going down to a 6mm size, so that we can guarantee we will pick up small fragments of bone, teeth, and any identifiable part of the human body, we will pick up at that stage,” said Hutchins.
With many victims’ relatives still angry over delays in the identification process, investigators are urging those who lost loved ones to be patient.
“I deeply understand the frustration family members have and the answers they want. That’s only natural. All I can say is please be patient. We are doing our utmost best for you and we are working as hard as we can. My teams can’t work any harder,” said Hutchins. “It’s extremely difficult for them to understand because it’s not their world. And I don’t think anything I’m going to say here is going to clearly convey that to them, but we are trying our very best to get them their loved ones back,” he added.
Due to the scale of the damage caused by the fire, it’s thought some of the victims may never be identified.
It’s a month since the fire at Grenfell Tower and we still don’t know how many people died and survivors still haven’t been rehoused— عائشة (@theaisharimi) July 11, 2017