LONDON (AFP) – British police on Wednesday said they had recovered the “last of the visible human remains” from the Grenfell Tower high rise building, where an inferno killed at least 80 people last month.
Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy said officers had been “meticulously” sifting through 15.5 tonnes (17 tons) of debris by hand for human remains following the June 14 blaze.
Police have warned that some victims may have been so badly burnt in the tragedy that their remains may never be identified.
Government housing minister Alok Sharma announced that 139 of the 158 families identified by authorities as being left homeless by the tragedy had been offered rent-free temporary accommodation, but revealed that only 14 had so far accepted, with only three moving in.
All the families are currently in emergency accommodation, including hotels.
“I can confirm that every family that is ready to talk to the housing team has been offered a temporary home,” Sharma said, explaining that 19 families were not yet “ready to engage” with authorities.
Sharma said that the “over 200 good quality properties” had been put aside in Grenfell’s Kensington and Chelsea borough or in a neighbouring borough.
However, he said that there was a “lack of trust” from residents, some of whom are worried that they may end up living permanently in the accommodation.
“We need to go at the pace they want to go,” said the minister.
“Some might choose to remain in hotels until they have an offer of permanent tenancy,” he added.
The minister welled up as he recalled the “harrowing accounts” given to him by survivors from the 24-floor block, calling it the “most humbling and moving experience of my life”.
Prime Minister Theresa May had set Wednesday as the deadline for housing to be offered to those left homeless.
A spokesman for the North Kensington Law Centre said many of its clients had “unanswered questions about whether those residents will have to pay more rent than they did previously, and whether their new tenancies, both temporary and permanent, will guarantee them the same rights and protections they had before”.
Local government minster Sajid Javid earlier announced that he was “intervening” in the Kensington and Chelsea local council, whose handling of the tragedy has been sharply criticised.
“I will appoint an independent Recovery Taskforce… to provide advice and practical and strategic support,” he said in a statement.
Some 21 bodies have so far been formally identified, with victims including a six-month-old baby, her eight-year-old sister and their parents, who lived on the 20th floor.
Dozens more are missing and now presumed dead.