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How Many Died in London Fire? Anger Rises as Police Won’t Say for Sure

The volunteer researchers have used different methods to arrive at their own estimates.

The software engineer, Joshua Vantard, has been using crowdsourcing techniques on a website, Gathrer, to amass information on those who had been found or were missing. With two volunteer editors, he began poring through public sources to compile the information. He says the data remains too incomplete to allow scientific judgments, but his figure of 93 remains the most complete accounting in the public domain. (Mr. Vantard took data identifying the victims by name offline on Monday, citing privacy concerns raised by people claiming to represent the survivors.)

Among those who began using the Gathrer data was the demographer Michelle vonAhn, who previously worked for another council in London that had similarly large immigrant populations and data about their living arrangements.

“I don’t subscribe to the conspiracy theory,” she said, “but I do absolutely agree that there has been a purposeful attempt to trickle out the number of deaths, to not have any kind of overall figure in terms of people who may have died there.”

Ms. vonAhn and others working on the subject have concluded that until they know for certain how many people lived in Grenfell, they may never know how many died in the fire. Even DNA samples will not necessarily help, since DNA is usually destroyed by the high temperatures in a fire. In many of the apartments, including the 23 from which no one has been found, only ashes remain.

Sajad Jamalvatan, the Iranian student, who was out the night of the fire and whose mother survived the blaze, said he had his own count of 123 dead, but did not supply the raw data to back up his assertion. “It cannot be 80, it’s double that,” he said of the police estimate. “They don’t want to give out three-digit numbers.”

A spokesman for the council, who refused to give his name, was annoyed by suggestions that the council should have some idea how many people were registered to live in Grenfell Tower. “Grenfell Tower is not a gulag,” he said. “The U.K. is not a communist state. Why would they have been registered?”

Residents, however, seem unlikely to accept such reassurances anytime soon, in the absence of a detailed methodology. Amina al-Wahadi, who lived near the tower and watched as the flames consumed her brother and his family of five on the 21st floor, said of the authorities: “They’re stuck on 80, they’re covering their backs, that’s all.”

Source: NYT > World

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