No less than six persons were confirmed dead with about 50 others injured on Wednesday morning after a blaze ripped through a high-rise apartment block in the British capital as residents slept.
More than 250 firefighters battled the inferno at Grenfell Tower in west London through the night as eyewitnesses said people were trapped in the burning building screaming for help and yelling for their children to be saved.
Local resident Tim Downie told NBC News he saw “people dangling children out the windows to try and get them to safety” as flames spread upwards. Another witness recounted watching someone jumping from it.
Firefighters rescued “large numbers”, but London Mayor Sadiq Khan said “a lot” of people were unaccounted for.
It is also understood that the 24-storey block, which is still on fire, looks at risk of collapsing.
During the night, 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.
London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton called it an “unprecedented incident,” adding that a “number of fatalities” had been confirmed.
This is even as the Police later put the death toll at 6, but warned that figure was likely to grow.
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.
“In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never, ever seen anything of this scale,” Cotton said. “This is a major fire that’s affected all floors of the 24-story structure from the second floor upwards.”
She urged all residents to make sure they had reported themselves to police so that the authorities know they are safe.
By mid-morning, the building looked to be just smoking ruins but the fire has again taken hold, and cladding is falling to the ground.
Grenfell Tower has around 130 units. It is located about a mile northwest of Kensington Palace and is also near the Portobello Road market tourist attraction.