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Bassil, Shorter meet relatives of missing Grenfell family

Relatives of a Lebanese family missing and feared dead after the Grenfell Tower fire in London met Tuesday with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

The meeting was attended by Bassem Choucair’s parents and cousin, Mounir Choucair, as well as Haytham Jomaa, director-general for the Lebanese diaspora at the Foreign Ministry, and British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter.

Bassem and Nadia Choucair lived on the 22nd floor of Grenfell Tower, along with their three children Mirna, Fatima and Zeinab, and Nadia’s mother, Sareyah. The family, originally from Baalbeck’s Nahleh, have been missing since a fire devastated their apartment building on June 14.

After meeting with Bassil, Mounir Choucair expressed gratitude for the efforts of the Lebanese state as a whole, and President Michel Aoun in particular. He also thanked Shorter for supporting the family in their time of need. The Lebanese authorities and Shorter had assured the Choucair family that efforts to discover the fate of their relatives were ongoing, Mounir said.

“Seeing as to this day there isn’t any accurate information about them [the family], and they are still among those lost, we hope to reach a result as soon as possible,” Mounir said. British authorities had taken DNA samples from Bassem’s sister and Nadia’s brother in an effort to identify the Lebanese nationals, he said. He also demanded to receive the remains of their bodies, if the six family members were among the victims.

According to British media reports, Hisam Choucair, Nadia’s brother, reportedly identified his sister in an image of the disaster that showed a woman signaling from a window as the building burned.

“I would like to say to the [U.K.] government that I would like to see reform into all high-rise buildings in London,” Hisam told British TV station Sky News Saturday.

Fire ripped through the 24-story west London tower in the early hours of June 14. Flames engulfed the building in under an hour, trapping many residents before firefighters could reach them. The apartment building’s residents, many of them immigrants to the U.K. like the Choucairs, had repeatedly warned the local council’s tenant management organization about the risk of fire in the months preceding the blaze. The Guardian newspaper reported that these concerns were ignored. Of the 79 people now believed to have died in the fire, only five had been formally identified as of Monday. British police have warned that some victims may never be identified, due to the condition of their remains.

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