Firefighters worked through the night to dampen the massive blaze that engulfed a 24-storey residential tower block in west London killing at least 12 people with claims emerging that warnings about safety had been ignored. The fire at Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster West Estate in Latimer Road was reported at 01:16 AM (local time) yesterday. About 600 people were believed to have been inside the tower’s 120 flats, many of them asleep, when the blaze ripped through the building. Firefighters worked through the night to dampen the fire — with flames still visible, more than 24 hours after the blaze began. Crews using an aerial platform were going “floor by floor” shining lights into the building, BBC reported.
Police confirmed 12 deaths among the 600 residents thought to have lived in the tower but expect that toll to rise significantly as the building is searched. Hospitals treated 74 people, of whom 18 remain in a critical condition. Scotland Yard said the recovery of charred remains would be “long and complex”. Firefighters said the blaze was unprecedented in its scale and the speed with which it engulfed Grenfell Tower in Kensington. Witnesses described flames climbing the 24-storey building within 15 minutes.
Trapped parents threw their children from windows in desperate efforts to save them. Others leapt from high floors rather than succumb to the flames. Survivors described having to clamber over charred bodies in corridors and stairways filled with smoke. Some of those who had heeded official advice from the tower block’s management to “stay put” and await rescue but perished in the fire. Others defied the advice and made their way down a single, central staircase — the building’s only escape route.
The fire is thought to have started when a fridge exploded in a kitchen on the fourth floor. Residents of the tower had repeatedly warned local officials that the building was a firetrap and that a “catastrophic event” was inevitable. Survivors said there were no sprinklers in the building. Many were woken by neighbours because no alarms had been activated. The focus for investigators is external cladding, which appeared to act as an accelerant for the flames that swept up the newly refurbished 1970s tower.
There were claims that warnings about safety had been ignored. Government ministers were warned about the fire risk of cladding as far back as 1999, the Daily Telegraph reported. Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said last night that the force do not expect to find any more survivors. Grenfell Tower is managed by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation on behalf of the local council.