The names of more victims of the Grenfell Tower fire are expected to be released on Monday as the painstaking process of sifting through charred debris to find missing people continues.
Search teams from the London fire brigade have reached the top floor of the 24-storey building but their efforts have been slowed by concerns over the stability of the burnt-out structure.
The latest death toll, according to the police, is 79, although five people previously thought to have perished have been discovered alive. Among them, it is thought, is Rohima Begun-Ali: two of her children are understood to be in hospital. They had recently moved from Birmingham to London.
The first victim to be formally identified by the police was not named until Saturday. Mohammed Alhajali, who was 23, was a civil engineering student and a refugee from Syria. He became separated from his brother as he tried to escape down the tower’s single staircase.
“Mohammed was a very amazing and kind person,” his family said in a statement. “He gave love to everyone. He came to the UK because he had ambitions and aims for his life and for his family. Our whole family will miss Mohammed dearly and he will never be forgotten. To God we belong and to him we return.”
Dany Cotton, the London fire commissioner, said she understood the “absolute frustration and misery” of people concerned about loved ones who had not yet been identified, but that it was critical to go through the process properly.
“There are people in there, obviously, who have been subject to a very intense fire, and that will make some of the identification very difficult, which is why it’s even more important that we make sure we do this in a measured, careful and very well-managed way,” she told the BBC Today programme. It could be “some days yet” before firefighters could say they have reached everyone in the building.
Grenfell Tower, which was built in 1974, contained 120 flats. It was home to between 400 and 600 residents. The soaring summer heat is contributing to the difficulties of the firefighters, who are using specially trained dogs to locate bodies.
NHS England said 17 patients were still being treated in four London hospitals for burns, smoke inhalation and injuries sustained in the fire. Of those, nine are in critical care.
Among those still waiting for news are two brothers, Nabil and Hissam Choukair, whose mother, brother-in-law, sister and her three young children – Fatima, Mierna and Zainab – are all missing. The family, originally from Lebanon, lived on the 22nd floor of Grenfell Tower. For several days Nabil and Hissam, in tears, have stood beneath the tower with pictures of their six missing relatives in the hope of hearing news.
Nabil said: “At 1.55am [on Wednesday] Bassem [our brother-in-law] sent a message to his work saying there was a fire on the 4th floor of his building and apologising. He wrote: ‘We are not able to leave the building… Sorry guys for letting you down.’
“My sister left a message on my phone which said: ‘There’s a fire in our building. We are sitting in our flat. OK. Bye.’ That was the last message they sent. I called her phone but it was just ringing and ringing.”
Nabil believed that the picture published in many newspapers last week of a family silhouetted in flames holding up a towel were his relatives. “We want answers,” Nabil said at the weekend. “We want justice. We want the truth. We are all one in this: we are all family together.”