The true number of people who died in the Grenfell Tower fire may have been suppressed by officials desperate to avoid riots in the streets, a Labour MP has suggested.
David Lammy said local residents at the west London tower block told him that the official figure of at least 79 deaths is far too few given the scale of destruction.
In an appearance on the BBC’s “Newsnight” programme, he said he is “sympathetic” to the theory that the numbers had been covered up in the wake of the fire on June 14.
In an exchange with presenter Emily Maitlis, he said: “I was not standing outside of Grenfell Tower watching my neighbours jump and burn to death. But I have heard those people and we should validate what they are saying, they’re not making it up.”
When pressed on who might be behind the cover up, Lammy declined to directly blame either Kensington and Chelsea Council or the Metropolitan Police, but said questions must be asked.
Lammy said officials may have been hesitant to release a large death toll early because “there could be civil unrest” if the full extent of deaths was made public.
Around 600 people lived in the tower, but officials have struggled to determine exactly who was inside when the fire began. The Metropolitan Police last updated the death toll on June 19 — eight days ago.
Ministers have defended the slow progress. On Monday, Alok Sharma, the housing minister, told the BBC’s Today programme that “this is not about a cover-up,” and appealed for more displaced victims to come forward so that the government’s figures could be updated.
Not everyone deemed “missing” from the tower has necessarily died. Also on June 19, the Metropolitan Police announced that five people feared dead in the blaze had been found safe and well.
Deaths are still being confirmed, however. The Met Police identified five-year-old Isaac Paulous as the latest victim of the catastrophic blaze.
“He was such a good boy who was loved by his friends and family,” his family said in a statement.
“I am being honest about what people are saying to me” @DavidLammy on the number of people thought to be killed in #GrenfellTower fire pic.twitter.com/cbb6m8NXlr
— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) June 26, 2017
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