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London fire death toll reaches 17

More bodies were found on Thursday in the fire-ravaged apartment block in west London, raising the death toll to 17, the Metropolitan Police said.

Commander Stuart Cundy said the number was expected to rise and that an unknown number of people were missing, Efe news reported. Seventeen of the 37 people still hospitalised remained in critical condition.

"Our absolute priority is about locating and identifying those people that are still missing," he said, although he was not able to specify how many people were unaccounted for.

Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said specialist search and rescue teams would be working to make the building safe for firefighters and police to enter and begin search for and identify people who may have been in the building when the fire erupted early on Wednesday.

Teams would be preceded by sniffer dogs who could search dangerous areas faster. "This will be a very slow and painstaking process," she said.

Firefighters worked overnight at the scene of the devastating fire that gutted the 24-storey Grenfell Tower.

Cotton earlier told Sky News they were not expecting to find anyone else alive and it would be an "absolute miracle" if anyone were found still living, given the "severity and the heat of the fire".

Prime Minister Theresa May visited the scene of the fire on Thursday and spoke to police and firefighters there.

The tower block housed 120 apartments.

Muslim residents observing Ramadan have been hailed as heroes after they helped save many sleeping neighbours from the horrific Grenfell Tower fire.

Residents who had stayed up for Sehri (pre-dawn meal) saw the inferno break out just before 1 a.m.

After sensing the smoke smell about an hour after midnight Tuesday, the fasting Muslims came out of their homes and began running around, frantically knocking on neighbours' doors to wake them up, the Daily Mail reported on Thursday.

They were dubbed a "lifeline" in helping to get people out of their flats even as fire alarms and sprinklers failed to work in the west London block, the daily reported.

Khalid Suleman Ahmed, who lived on the eighth floor of Grenfell Tower, said: "No fire alarms went off and there were no warning. I was playing PlayStation waiting to eat suhuur when I smelt smoke.

"I got up and looked out of my window and saw the seventh floor smoking. I woke my auntie up, then got clothes on and started knocking on neighbours' doors."

Rashida, a resident, told Sky News how fasting Muslims may have saved lives in the tower block as many of them were awake.

"Most Muslims now observing Ramadan will normally not go to bed until about 2 a.m., maybe 2.30 a.m., when they have their late night last meal. They do their last prayer.

"So most of the families around here would have been awake," she said.

Nadia Yousuf, 29, also said that Muslim residents were among the first to alert neighbours to the blaze as they woke up to prepare to break their fast.

A number of Islamic cultural centres and mosques like the Al-Manaar Mosque opened their doors to help those affected.

The nearby St. Clement's and St. James' church and local Sikh temples also opened their doors to people who were evacuated.

A woman near the scene told reporters: "If it wasn't for all these young Muslim boys around here helping us coming from the mosque, a lot more people would have been dead.

"They were the first people with bags of water giving to people and helping, running and telling people."

Andre Barroso, 33, told The Independent: "Muslims played a big part in getting a lot of people out. Most of the people I could see were Muslim. They have also been providing food and clothes."

Twenty people are fighting for their lives in a critical condition with 78 people taken to six different hospitals across London.

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