50 people have been hospitalised and others died, with the numbers growing, after a fire rapidly blazed through a West London tower black at 1am.
Firefighters rescued “large numbers” of residents from the 24-storey apartment block, known as Grenfell Tower, in North Kensington. The London Fire Commissioner, Dany Cotton, said there are “a number of fatalities” but the number is unknown due to “size and complexity” of the block. There are dozens of people still missing, including the elderly and children.
Dozens of trapped residents on the upper floors were forced to jump as others dangled children out of windows to avoid smoke and others braved the fire to escape. 600 people were thought to be in the building, which holds 120 flats. Witnesses told of hearing screams for help from trapped people on the upper floors, as others urged terrified residents not to jump.
Images and videos of the incident show a huge tornado of fire and a plume of smoke. The building is now charred black from top to bottom and still smoking with fires in multiple areas. More than 200 firefighters were called to the area who battled their way up the stairs through the fire as residents were escaping down.
Fire chiefs have alleviated fears of collapse and said the building “continues to be safe for our crews to go and work in.” Police and firefighters were seen using riot shields to protect against falling debris.
Residents have also added that the fire alarms did not go off and they were advised to “stay put” in their homes as opposed to escaping the blaze. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, says “questions need to be answered as soon as possible.”
Michael Paramaseevan said he ignored official advice to stay in your home, “If we had stayed in that flat, we would’ve perished. My gut instinct told me just to get the girls out. I wrapped the little one up because of the smoke and I just got them out.”
The whole building is engulfed in flames. It’s gone. It’s just a matter of time before this building collapses.
Actor Tim Downie, who lives 600 metres from tower, said “It’s horrendous. The whole building is engulfed in flames. It’s gone. It’s just a matter of time before this building collapses.”
It is still unknown how the fire started, although The Grenfell Action Group said they brought up safety concerns time and time again, which “fell on deaf ears.” Just seven months ago, they wrote an eerie blog predicting “a catastrophic event.” The blog reads: “Unfortunately, the Grenfell Action Group have reached the conclusion that only an incident that results in serious loss of life of… residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur”.
According to the group there is only one entry and exit to the building and access for emergency services was “severely restricted.” A spokesperson for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said: “At present all our focus is on supporting the rescue and relief operation. The cause of the fire will be fully investigated and we will keep people informed and this page will be updated throughout the day.”