floors survived:Nobody on the top three floors survived’: Six dead and dozens missing as massive blaze ‘sparked by faulty fridge’ engulfs 27-storey tower block in just 15 minutes: Residents hurl themselves from windows while others make ropes from sheets
The fire that swept through a 27-storey west London tower block in just 15 minutes after a fridge exploded could be one of the worst in British history amid fears nobody on the top three floors survived.
Six people are known to have died after fire engulfed Grenfell Tower in White City after 1am today but Scotland Yard says the death toll is expected to rise significantly.
A community leader working to locate victims, who asked not to be named, believes nobody who lived on the top three residential floors survived and the building could collapse in the next 24 hours.
He said: ‘We have a list of missing people – there are so many. It’s possible there are more than 50, possibly hundreds’.
Those who managed to flee said it was ‘like hell on earth’ inside as they scrambled over dead bodies and claimed there was no working fire alarm, sprinklers failed and the only staircase out was blocked.
At the height of the blaze petrified residents were seen throwing themselves and their children out of windows to avoid being burned to death – others made ropes by tying bed sheets together or used them as makeshift parachutes and jumped.
The local council, the block’s landlord and the contractor used to refurbish the building last year face serious questions about how the fire took hold so quickly in a tower branded a ‘death trap’ by survivors.
With dozens now feared dead or missing it has emerged:
- At least six people have died, 74 are in six London hospitals including 20 in a critical condition after Grenfell Tower blaze started at 1am;
- Dozens more are feared dead or missing with one source claiming total could run into the hundreds. The Casualty Bureau number is 0800 0961 233;
- Trapped residents begged to be rescued while waving white towels, torches and mobile phones after being urged to stay in their flats;
- Petrified residents were seen throwing themselves and their children out of windows – a baby tossed from the ‘9th or tenth floor’ was caught and survived;
- 200 firefighters with 40 engines needed to tackle ‘unprecedented’ blaze – residents claim that fire alarms didn’t work, sprinklers failed and only stairwell used as exit was blocked;
- Residents gave repeated warnings about ‘appalling’ fire safety to landlord Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), whose four bosses earned £650,000 between them last year;
- New plastic rain-proof cladding encasing the building in £10million refurbishment ‘went up like a match’ and helped fire spread quickly from fourth floor to 27th floor – although the contractor insists it was safe;
- Dozens of similar blocks from the 1960s and 1970s refurbished in recent years have the same or similar new cladding;
- Local community including celebrities bring food and clothes to crisis centres while others offer the now-homeless places to stay;
Police have said it is not possible to confirm how many people are unaccounted for because the building is still on fire more than 12 hours after it started.
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Many residents who gathered outside the smoldering ruins of the building said the fire had been caused by a faulty fridge in one of the flats, but the fire service told MailOnline it could not confirm the reports at this stage
The trapped, some of whom are still inside, were heard begging for their lives while waving white towels, torches and mobile phones
There are real fears that that nobody who lived on the top three residential floors may have survived the unprecedented fire
Police would not confirm how many people are unaccounted for because the building is still on fire 12 hours after it started (pictured at 1pm today)
Residents were trapped ‘screaming for their lives’ as flames raged through a 27-storey tower block in Notting Hill in the early hours today
Firefighters continue to battle large scale blaze in London tower block more than 12 hours after it broke out on the fourth floor
In this image taken by eyewitness Gurbuz Binici, a huge fire engulfs the 27-storey Grenfell Tower in Latimer Road, White City
A woman covered in ash is comforted by others as she looks on while the enormous fire rages through the night and into the morning
At least one resident is still stuck inside the block on the 11th floor, with firefighters still desperately trying to reach him
A man (circled) looks from a window as smoke pours from a fire that has engulfed the 27-storey Grenfell Tower in west London
Firefighters have braved extreme temperatures and needed riot shield to protect themselves from falling debris including glass and cladding
A brace firefighter is pictured inside the burnt remains of the 27-storey building, as efforts are made to investigate what caused the blaze
The 27-storey Grenfell building, which was built in 1974 but refurbished last year, has an average of six flats per floor lived in by council tenants and a smaller number of private owners or tenants
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.’
More than 600 residents desperately tried to escape the flames as the fire broke out in the middle of the night, with many woken by the screams of others and the smell of burning plastic
The cordon around the block has been pushed back by police and homes surrounding it evacuated amid fears that the building could collapse in the densely populated area of London
Dany Cotton, Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, said there had been ‘a number of fatalities’ following a ‘unprecedented incident’ that she described as the largest in scale that she had seen in her 29-year career
Hundreds of people have been left homeless after the blaze, with community centres opening their doors to those affected
Several people have been confirmed dead after a huge inferno broke out at a residential tower block in West London (shown)
Firefighters have been battling the blaze for several hours and while the flames are slowly being brought under control, there are fears the tower could collapse
Six people are known to have died after fire engulfed Grenfell Tower in White City at 1am today but Scotland Yard says the death toll is expected to rise significantly
A trapped resident looks out from his window as he tries to get the attention of the rescue services. Emergency services asked people to shine torches or their phones from their windows to let them know they were still inside
floors survived:The full extent of the damage caused by the fire is evident in this photograph taken this afternoon, as firefighters continue to extinguish fires in the upper levels of the block
The heat was said to be so intense that firefighters (shown) were unable to get close to the building, which was built in 1974 – they took shifts to rush the building because they were using oxygen tanks
Firefighters and paramedics work on someone pulled from the burning building today – but many are feared to be inside
floors survived:Families who escaped the flames were left to face the reality of their home and all of their belongings being destroyed in the fire, which started in the early hours of this morning
floors survived:Firefighters covered in dust and soot from the burning building are offered food and water by a volunteer near Grenfell Tower