A fire ripped through a 24-storey block of flats in west London early on Wednesday, killing at least six people and trapping dozens of residents, some of whom were seen throwing children from windows in the hope they survive the blaze.
Eyewitnesses said they had also seen some people fall or jump from the Grenfell Tower, a 1970s building in the working-class north Kensington area, after it caught fire at around 1.am UK time (0530 India time). There were fears that the building might crumble due to the blaze, 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,” police commander Stuart Cundy said in a statement.
Fire fighters struggled for hours to cope with what was called a “major” incident and an “unprecedented situation”.
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It’s very distressing, not just for those of us watching as lay people, but also very distressing for the emergency services. We declared a major incident very early, which meant not just the fire service but also the London Ambulance Service, the police and the others were involved at the scene,” Khan told BBC Radio 4.
Some residents were seen using bedsheets to make their escape from the tower block. Witnesses could hear screaming from the upper floors as the flames rose and one desperate resident could be seen waving a white cloth.
“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 told the BBC.
Police turned a church near the scene into a makeshift centre for evacuees.
Many people at St Clement’s church are in wheelchairs and have been brought from adjacent buildings that were evacuated by firefighters because of fears the fire might spread.