Lily Allen and the row on how Grenfell Tower's death toll is being reported

Grenfell Tower

At least 30 people are now confirmed dead after the devastating Grenfell Tower fire in west London.

Many people are missing and police warn that they may never be able to identify all of the victims.

Some, including celebrities, claim the true death toll is being suppressed by the media.

Singer Lily Allen was criticised on Thursday after saying she believed the real death toll is being covered up.

She told the BBC on Friday that relatives are "not really being given the opportunity to grieve, while there is this figure of 17 last night, now 30."

She added: "Figures come out in dribs and drabs in other events, and are released in a different way ... This is about negligence and the figures are coming out slowly, and I think that's happening for a reason."

On being challenged she was peddling a conspiracy theory, she said: "It might be a conspiracy, but it's about corruption, and corruption happens at the top of power structures - it doesn't happen on the shop floor at Lidl."

Rapper Akala, who has spoken up about social issues for years, also claimed the true number is being played down.

The BBC understands as many as 76 people are missing, feared dead.

Why is there a row over the fatality numbers?

Lily Allen
Image caption Singer Lily Allen says that the low number reported is "giving people false hope"

Many people on social media are speculating that the media, which is still reporting the confirmed death toll as 30, "know" that the true number is much higher but are not publishing actual numbers.

It is up to the Metropolitan Police to release the number to the media and the public.

Media outlets report what is officially known as soon as they hear.

Why does the media stick to the police line?

Commander Stuart Cundy of the Met Police, Steve Apter of London Fire Brigade and Paul Woodrow from the london ambulance service hold a press conference
Image caption (L-R) Commander Stuart Cundy of the Met Police, Steve Apter of London Fire Brigade and Paul Woodrow from the london ambulance service hold a press conference

There are several reasons why the media is very reluctant to put out any other number when it comes to confirmed deaths.

Firstly, they want to be accurate. Speculating on a high fatality figure when there is no way to be absolutely certain of that number could cause problems, for example, by worrying the public.

The police also have a responsibility to be accurate. In this case, they have given an indication that they think the number will rise beyond 30 deaths - but they would not speculate on an exact number because the final death toll could be very different to anything they speculate.

In an incident like a fire or a bomb explosion, it may be very difficult to identify bodies.

In the case of Grenfell Tower, Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy said there was "a risk that sadly we may not be able to identify everybody".

The fire service was unable to reach the top of the tower when they arrived and so could not search for bodies or human remains on the top floors of the tower.

The fire was still burning hours after it began on Wednesday.

Emergency services at Grenfell Tower

How are the numbers calculated?

When an incident like the Grenfell Tower fire happens, a "multi-agency meeting" is called.

It can involve representatives from the police, ambulance service, NHS, fire service and even an environmental health agent.

No one agency will have the exact figure straight away, but they coordinate to pool their information on deaths.

So the police and fire services would report on bodies found at the scene.

The ambulance service and hospitals would be able to provide numbers and updates on casualties and people in hospital.

It is up to the police to announce the number of fatalities and this is the number that the media use.

According to the Met Police's Major Incident Procedure Manual, "there should be no speculation on fatality figures and the police should only confirm the number of dead after they have a true and accurate picture.

"Confirmed fatality figures may only be released after consultation with Police Gold."

Police Gold is the commander in charge of the multi-agency meeting following a major incident.

A nearby resident and his daughter bring flowers on a bike

The BBC has issued the following statement on its methodology in reporting casualty numbers

"The BBC understands that at present there could be as many as 76 people missing in the GRENFELL TOWER FIRE. The police have said that 30 people are confirmed dead, we know the ID of three dead. It is likely that the 30 are part of the 76, but we don't know this for sure.

"This information has been sourced through a mixture of reporting by BBC News staff on the ground, contacts to the BBC from families and friends including via social media and other media sources."

Will the numbers go up at all?

A firefighter works through the rubble of Grenfell Tower
Image caption A firefighter works through the rubble of Grenfell Tower

The BBC has been reporting that the death toll is expected to rise. But it won't give an actual figure until it gets one from the Met Police.

Increased fatality figures might come from the 24 people still in hospital, 12 of whom are in critical care.

They may also come from the evidence found in the burned tower as it is searched.

This might take a long time - The London Fire Brigade says the search will be "a slow and painstaking process".

So while the official death toll may seem low, it has always been said that the final number of people to have died is expected to be higher than originally reported.

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