More than 200,000 personal possessions have been salvaged from Grenfell Tower’s wreckage in a poignant recovery process that reduced many survivors to tears.

Michael Lockwood, who has overseen work at the London block, said items of great sentimental value, including jewellery and photos, had been reunited with their owners.

Hundreds of families were left homeless when fire raged through the building on June 14, with police now believing the final death toll to be 71, including a stillborn child.

Loading article content

Residents feared many mementos had been lost.

However, over the last six weeks, more than 50 people, survivors of the lower floors and accompanying friends and relatives, have been allowed to return to retrieve belongings.

Access to the site has been restricted as police carry out a painstaking investigation, including the removal of the dead.

It is expected to be handed back to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Mr Lockwood said: “We had 40 survivors, we stood in front of them and said, ‘You can go back in’, and every one of them was in tears of joy and they said to me, ‘This is the first time we’ve been listened to’.”

So far, around 30,000 belongings have been catalogued, cleaned and returned to survivors. The remainder are being stored in a warehouse until families are able to take them back.

Kenyon International Emergency Services, a company involved in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena attack earlier this year, has been removing property from the tower’s upper floors on behalf of former residents who cannot yet return.

Referring to the site visits, Mr Lockwood said: “Most came out with big smiles on their faces, with a box of sentimental items they’d managed to get.

“You can’t underestimate that moment for them. Going into your home, seeing it for the last time, having that closure.”

“To achieve that, we bent every rule possible. We didn’t break any rules, but we did something that was important to them, not what we thought was important.”

More than 3,500 supports are propping up ceilings and floors while scaffolding three times the normal density is stabilising it. This has allowed a 150-strong recovery team comprising forensics staff, investigators and contractors to work “with great care, dignity and respect”.

A lift installed on the building’s side has enabled items on the tower’s higher levels to be recovered, which would be difficult to remove through the central stairway.

Mr Lockwood hopes residents of the higher floors will be allowed to return to their former homes once investigators have finished scouring the site.