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“Number of fatalities” confirmed in huge blaze at London tower block

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Alex Finnis
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Six people have been confirmed dead, with that figure expected to rise after a huge fire in a tower block in west London left people trapped inside their homes, while at least 50 people have been taken to hospital.

More than 40 fire engines and 200+ firefighters are on the scene at Grenfell Tower on Latimer Road in north Kensington, a 24-storey tower block with 120 flats.

The fire brigade said they were alerted to the fire at the Lancaster West estate just before 1am, and parts of the building are still ablaze.

One witness, George Clarke, told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I'm getting covered in ash, that's how bad it is.

"I'm 100 metres away and I'm absolutely covered in ash.

"It's so heartbreaking, I've seen someone flashing their torches at the top level and they obviously can't get out."

Fatalaties have been confirmed at the blaze at Grenfell Tower

Here is the full statement from Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton: “This is an unprecedented incident. In my 29 years of being a firefighter I have never ever seen anything of this scale. Firefighters are working very hard at the moment.

“This is a major fire that effected all floors of this 24 storey building from the second floor upwards. I have over 200 of my firefighters and officers attending this incident, with 40 fire engines and a range of specialist vehicles, including 14 fire rescue units. We declared this a major incident very early this morning … the first call coming in at 12.54. Our first fire engines were on the scene in under six minutes.

“Crews wearing breathing apparatus and extended duration breathing apparatus have been working in extremely challenging and very difficult conditions to rescue people and bring this major fire under control.

“London Ambulance Service have confirmed that 30 people have been taken to five hospitals.

“I am very sad to confirm that there have been a number of fatalities. I cannot confirm the number at this time due to the size and complexity of this building. It would clearly be wrong for me to speculate further.

“Equally the cause of this fire is not known at this stage.

“We are working very closely with our colleagues in the Metropolitan Police and the London Ambulance Service to bring this situation under control.

“Further information will be made available shortly including advice for those concerned about those who are working here and people who live here.”

Flames pour through the windows of the tower block late at night

Another witness, Tim Downie, told the BBC: "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."

London Fire Brigade assistant commissioner Dan Daly said firefighters were "working extremely hard in very difficult conditions to tackle this fire".

"This is a large and very serious incident and we have deployed numerous resources and specialist appliances,” he added.

Smoke billows off the building, as seen from afar

Attention has been drawn to a blog written last November in which residents warned of the fire risk in the tower block, but say their concerns were brushed aside by Kensington and Chelsea council, which owns the block, and and the local tenant management organisation KCTMO.

The post reads: “It is our conviction that a serious fire in a tower block or similar high density residential property is the most likely reason that those who wield power at the KCTMO will be found out and brought to justice! The Grenfell Action Group believe that the KCTMO narrowly averted a major fire disaster at Grenfell Tower in 2013 when residents experienced a period of terrifying power surges that were subsequently found to have been caused by faulty wiring. We believe that our attempts to highlight the seriousness of this event were covered up by the KCTMO with the help of the RBKC scrutiny Committee who refused to investigate the legitimate concerns of tenants and leaseholders.

“We believe that these investigations will become part of damning evidence of the poor safety record of the KCTMO should a fire affect any other of their properties and cause the loss of life that we are predicting…

In the last twenty years and despite the terrifying power surge incident in 2013 and recent fire at Adair Tower, the residents of Grenfell Tower have received no proper fire safety instructions from the KCTMO. Residents were informed by a temporary notice stuck in the lift and one announcement in a recent regeneration newsletter that they should remain in their flats in the event of fire. There are not and never have been any instructions posted in the Grenfell Tower noticeboard or on individual floor as to how residents should act in event of a fire. Anyone who witnessed the recent tower block fire at Shepherds Court, in nearby Shepherd’s Bush, will know that the advice to remain in our properties would have led to certain fatalities and we are calling on our landlord to re-consider the advice that they have so badly circulated.

The Grenfell Action Group predict that it won’t be long before the words of this blog come back to haunt the KCTMO management and we will do everything in our power to ensure that those in authority know how long and how appallingly our landlord has ignored their responsibility to ensure the heath and safety of their tenants and leaseholders. They can’t say that they haven’t been warned!

So far we have no word on the nature of the injuries sustained by those who were taken to five separate London hospitals, nor any word on how many people could be trapped inside the building, which was still being evacuated at 4am.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said that a “major incident” had been declared, while the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea say the cause of the fire will be investigated, but the priory is currently on the rescue operation.

Around 30 flats in the surrounding area have also been evacuated, with residents told to go to emergency rest centres which have been set up in the area.

The Tube has been closed on the Circle and Hammersmith and City Lines between Edgware Road and Hammersmith, and the A40 Westway is also closed in both directions.

If you are concerned about family and friends who live in the area, the police have set up an emergency hotline: 0800 0961 233.

(Images: Rex)

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Alex Finnis

Alex is the Editor of ShortList.com

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