Police say it is known that six people have died and more than 50 are in hospital after a huge fire raged through the night in Grenfell Tower, North Kensington. The 24-storey block, which is still not fully extinguished, looks at risk of collapsing.
So far, firefighters have rescued “large numbers”, but London Mayor Sadiq Khan said “a lot” of people were unaccounted for.
The first reports of fire in the tower, came in at 00:54 BST. Three hours later, people were still being evacuated from the tower, the police said.
Eyewitnesses accounts described people trapped in the burning Grenfell Tower, screaming for help and yelling for their children to be saved. It’s also been accounted that eyewitnesses saw lights, thought to be rom mobile phones or torches, flashing from the top of the block of flats. Trapped residents were also sen at windows, some holding children.
Eyewitness Jody Martin said:
“I watched one person falling out, I watched another woman holding her baby out the window… hearing screams. I was yelling at everyone to get down and they were saying ‘We can’t leave our apartments, the smoke is too bad on the corridors.'”
Paul Munakr, who lives on the seventh floor, managed to 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.
He said he was alerted to the fire not by fire alarms but by people on the street below, shouting “don’t jump, don’t jump”.
Michael Paramaseevan, who lives on the seventh floor with his girlfriend and young daughter, 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.”
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.”
Mayor Sadiq Khan told the BBC that Questions will need to be answered over the safety of tower blocks. He also said he was devastated by the horrific scenes, attended by more than 250 firefighters and 100 ambulance medics.
“We can’t have a situation where people’s safety is put at risk because of bad advice being given or if it is the case, as has been alleged, of tower blocks not being properly serviced or maintained,” he said.
Matt Wrack, of the Fire Brigades Union said something had clearly gone badly wrong with fire prevention procedures at the building. Firefighters would normally fight a fire in a tower block from the inside, going up the fire escape, and fighting using the internal dry-rising mains, he said, but that’s not been possible in this case.
The Met Police has set up an emergency number on 0800 0961 233 for anyone concerned about friends or family.
London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said the cause of the fire was not yet known and it was too early to speculate on the building, although it was structurally safe enough for her crews to be working inside.
She urged all residents to make sure they had reported themselves to police so that the authorities know they are safe.