At least six persons were killed and over 50 others injured on Wednesday after a massive fire engulfed a 24-storey residential tower block in west London, with police expecting the death toll to rise.
The fire at Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster West Estate in Latimer Road was reported at 01:16 local time. About 600 people are believed to have been inside the tower’s 120 flats when the blaze ripped through the building.
“I can confirm six fatalities at this time but this figure is likely to rise during what will be a complex recovery operation over a number of days,” said Commander Stuart Cundy, of the Metropolitan Police.
He said it was likely to be some time before police could identify the victims, adding that it was too early to speculate on the cause of the fire, BBC reported. The 24-storey block, which is still on fire, looks at risk of collapsing, it said.
London Metropolitan police has said that extensive cordons are in place and nearby residents have been evacuated as a precaution.
An emergency number has been set up for anyone concerned for loved ones in #NorthKensington fire please call Casualty Bureau 0800 0961 233 or 0207 158 0197.
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) June 14, 2017
An emergency number has been set up for anyone concerned for loved ones in by the London Metropolitan police: Casualty Bureau 0800 0961 233.June 14, 2017
An emergency rest centre has also been opened for evacuees at the Harrow Centre on Freston Road.
“Fire is from 2nd to top floor of 27 storey building,” the fire service said on Twitter as rescue workers try to evacuate the building in Lancaster West Estate in North Kensington, London Fire Brigade said.
Buses serving West London have been delayed up to forty minutes due to the building fire at Ladbroke Grove, W10. Routes 23, 52, 70, 228, 295, 316 and 452 have been diverted due to it.
Police said in a statement they were called at 1:16 AM (local time) “to reports of a large fire at a block of flats in the Lancaster West Estate”.
The Metropolitan Police have confirmed that “a number of people are being treated for a range of injuries” on Twitter. Terrified residents are being evacuated from the surrounding streets and smoke is still being witnessed from miles around.
Residents continue to be evacuated from the tower block fire in #NorthKensington. A number of people being treated for a range of injuries.— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) June 14, 2017
The 24-story Grenfell Tower was built in the 1970s and recently subject to a $10.9 million redevelopment, according to property firm Rydon.
Situated close to Notting Hill, the tower block is around a five minute walk from the Latimer Road Underground station and near the Westfield shopping center in the west London suburbs.
A40 is closed in both directions following the #NorthKensington fire. Pls avoid the area to allow emergency services access to the scene.— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) June 14, 2017
Sources claim that those present at the scene reported falling of debris, loud explosions and shattering of glass.
Major incident declared at Grenfell Tower in Kensington. 40 fire engines & 200 firefighters at the scene - follow @LondonFire for updates.— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) June 14, 2017
In 2016, residents organisation Grenfell Action Group claimed that the tower had a “serious health and safety issue.”
"It has burned through to its very core. It looks very bad, very very bad. I've never seen anything like this. It's just such a big fire. The whole building is just crumbling.It's just billowing black smoke," an eyewitness said.
What eyewitnesses said?
Eyewitnesses reported seeing people trapped inside the burning building screaming for help and shouting for their children to be saved. People screamed for help as the fire took hold of the building. Some residents were seen using bedsheets to make their escape from the tower block.
“This is an unprecedented incident. In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never ever seen anything of this scale,” London Fire Brigade chief Dany Cotton told reporters. Cotton said the cause was unknown as yet. Scotland Yard has confirmed a number of fatalities and at least 50 people have been treated in hospital, according to London Ambulance.
“Extensive cordons remain in place and a number of nearby residents have been evacuated as a precaution. The A40 is closed in both directions. We kindly ask that the public stay away from the area,” Cundy said.
“I’m lucky to be alive and lots of people have not got out of the building I’ve lost everything I own. I’m standing here in everything I’ve got,” one survivor said.
Eyewitnesses said they saw lights thought to be mobile phones or torches flashing at the top of the block of flats, and trapped residents coming to their windows some holding children. Paul Munakr, who lives on the seventh floor, spoke of his escape.
“As I was going down the stairs, there were firefighters, truly amazing firefighters that were actually going upstairs, to the fire, trying to get as many people out the building as possible,” he told the BBC. Another resident, Zoe, who lives on the fourth floor, said she was woken by a neighbour banging on her door.
“The whole landing was thick with smoke. The smoke alarms weren’t going off but the way it spread so quickly from the fourth floor, all the way up to the 23rd floor was scary,” she said.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing the building burning through to “its very core”. Distraught relatives have been using social media to try and make contact with missing loved ones.
(With inputs from PTI)