A fire swept a 27-story London residential building during the night. Authorities say there were no survivors on the top three floor. So far, 6 have been confirmed dead, and dozens still missing. Graphic photos show people jumping out of their windows, or climbing out using bedsheets.
Grenfell Tower in White City erupted into flames around 1a.m. The fire was so fierce it is expected that the building will collapse.
Survivors who managed to escape the fire told media that it was like ‘hell’, many scrambling over each other, jumping over bodies to make it to an exit.
The Daily Mail reports:
Grenfell’s own community action group called for the tower to be pulled down four years ago over ‘appalling’ fire safety in the building and said today their repeated warnings to landlord Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) fell on ‘deaf ears’.
KCTMO completed a £10million refurbishment last year and the new cladding encasing the block originally built in 1974 ‘went up like a match’, one resident has said.
Commander Stuart Cundy, of the Metropolitan Police, said: ‘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.’
Fire crews are searching the tower and Mr Cundy added: ‘I do anticipate that there may be people within that building that are as yet unaccounted for.’
NHS England said 74 people are being treated in six hospitals across the capital, of whom 20 are in critical care.
Mr Cundy said it is likely to be some time before police can identify the victims, adding that it is too early to speculate on the cause of the fire.
Prime Minister Theresa May was said to be ‘deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life’ and newly appointed police and fire minister Nick Hurd will chair a meeting of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat to co-ordinate the response.
London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton told reporters: ‘This is an unprecedented incident. In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never ever seen anything of this scale.’
Grenfell Tower was built in 1974 and contains 120 flats thought to be home to between 400 and 600 people.
The building was refurbished recently at a cost of £8.6 million, with work completed in May last year.
Rydon, the firm that carried it out, said its work ‘met all required building control, fire regulation, and health and safety standards’.
London Fire Brigade said the cause of the fire is still being investigated, but several residents reported one man had said it started in his faulty fridge.
The brigade said a structural engineer had checked the building and determined it was not in danger of collapse and that rescue teams were safe to be inside.
Many traumatic accounts of the fire and its impact have emerged, including a baby being dropped from the tower.
Samira Lamrani said she saw a woman try to save the baby by dropping it from a window ‘on the ninth or 10th floor’ to waiting members of the public below.
Residents who escaped complained there had been no fire alarm, with many relying on neighbours to wake them as the blaze spread.
They said official advice in the event of a fire had been to stay inside.
Michael Paramasivan, who was in his seventh floor flat with girlfriend Hannah West, 23, and her daughter Thea, five, said: ‘If we’d listened to them and stayed in the flat we’d have perished.’
A residents’ action group said its warnings about safety had fallen on ‘deaf ears’. A blog post from Grenfell Action Group in November said ‘only a catastrophic event’ would expose the concerns residents had.
The group said there was one entry and exit to the tower during improvement works and it had issues with evacuation procedures.
London mayor Sadiq Khan said: ‘There will be a great many questions over the coming days as to the cause of this tragedy and I want to reassure Londoners that we will get all the answers.’
Witnesses said the fire spread rapidly up the building, with some suggesting it was fuelled by gas.
Mr Paramasivan, 37, told the Press Association: ‘There were explosions everywhere you looked, lots of bangs, blue gas coming out everywhere you looked.
‘About 12 floors up I saw three children waving from a window and then there was just an explosion and they disappeared.
‘They were three kids, they were banging on the windows, you could see their silhouettes and then bang, it just went up.’
Muna Ali, 45, said: ‘The flames, I have never seen anything like it, it just reminded me of 9/11.
‘The fire started on the upper floors … oh my goodness, it spread so quickly, it had completely spread within half an hour.’
Robert Black, chief executive of Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, which manages Grenfell, said: ‘The fire at Grenfell Tower is devastating and the reports of injury and losses of life absolutely heartbreaking.’