Death toll increases to 30 in west London high-rise apartment fire

LONDON — At least 30 people died in London’s Grenfell Tower fire, Cmdr. Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police said Friday.

British police say they might never be able to identify all of those who perished in the Grenfell Tower disaster, as anger and frustration mounted in the London neighborhood stunned by the tragedy.

A criminal investigation has been launched into the circumstances surrounding the blaze. Firefighters continued to pick their way through the burnt-out wreckage of the building Friday.

Dozens of people remain missing after fire rapidly engulfed the 24-story building in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Relatives and friends of the missing made increasingly desperate appeals for information, as it became increasingly clear that few are likely to have survived.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Cambridge visited the area to meet residents and community representatives on Friday.

Prime Minister Theresa May faced criticism for failing to meet residents when she made a low-key visit at the scene Thursday.

Her government, already weakened after losing its parliamentary majority in elections last week, has been slammed for a faltering response.

May has announced a public inquiry into the disaster.

Cundy said there was “a risk that sadly we may not be able to identify everybody”. Authorities say 24 people remain in hospital, 12 of whom are in critical care.

Police said Friday they had identified the place where the fire originated, and disclosed that it was unlikely to have been started deliberately.

Many residents blame the fire’s rapid spread on cladding fitted to the outside of the tower in a recent refurbishment.

According to the Times of London, the cladding’s manufacturer said its use is banned in the U.S. on high-rise buildings “because of the fire and smoke spread.”

There are also questions over why no sprinklers were fitted during the 2015-16 refurbishment of the building.

Nicholas Paget-Brown, leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which owns the building, told the BBC that sprinklers were not fitted “because that would have delayed and made the refurbishment of the block more disruptive.”

He added the cladding fitted to the outside of the tower — and blamed by many residents for helping spread the fire — would not be used again.