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Death Toll Rises to 79 in London Tower Inferno

The number of people killed or missing and presumed dead in the Grenfell Tower inferno in London has climbed to 79 according to police Monday.

Only five victims have been formally identified, aid Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy.

Cundy told reporters the “awful reality” was that it’s unlikely that all victims will be identified.

It’s unclear exactly how the recently-renovated 24-story tower erupted into flames early Wednesday, but authorities are speculating that flammable cladding is to blame.

“On Saturday I went in myself and went to the top floor,” Cundy said. “And it is incredibly hard to describe the devastation in some parts of that building.”

He cautioned that the death toll is likely to rise because search operations are still ongoing in the remains of the building.

Cundy said that it has been difficult to identify many of the foreign-born victims because their dental records need to be obtained from their countries of origin.

The police chief held back tears as he recounted his foray into the charred building.

“I’ve investigated major crime for most of my service and I’ve seen some terrible things but I don’t think anything prepared me for what I was going to see when I was in there,” Cundy said.

Five individuals originally reported missing after the fire have been found safe.

The UK Press Association reported that 17 victims are still being treated for injuries. Nine are still in critical condition as of Monday.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said the investigation is focused on the flammable cladding installed in the tower during a recent renovation.

“My understanding is the cladding in question, this flammable cladding which is banned in Europe and the U.S., is also banned here,” Hammond told the BBC.

“So there are two separate questions. One, are our regulations correct, do they permit the right kind of materials and ban the wrong kind of materials? The second question is were they correctly complied with?”