Dozens are feared dead today after an inferno believed to have started when a fridge exploded ripped through a 27-storey west London tower block in just 15 minutes.
Residents were seen throwing themselves and their children out of windows to avoid being burned to death – others made ropes by tying sheets together as fire engulfed Grenfell Tower in White City at 1am today.
But a baby tossed from the ‘ninth or 10th floor’ of the building housing 600 people was caught by a member of the public and survived with only broken bones and bruises, a witness has said.
The trapped, some of whom are still inside, were heard begging for their lives screamed ‘help me’ while waving white towels, torches and mobile phones to attract the attention of the 200 firefighters who started storming the building within six minutes of the 999 call.
Those who managed to flee said it was ‘like hell on earth’ inside and compared the disaster to the 9/11 attack – and also revealed there was no working fire alarm, sprinklers failed and the only staircase out was blocked.
The building’s new cladding completed during a recent £10million refurbishment ‘went up like a match’ and sped up the blaze, another said.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has also demanded to know why Grenfell residents were told to ‘stay put’ in their flats for up to an hour in the event of a fire and will investigate claims that residents repeatedly warned that many people would die in the event of a major fire.
Dany Cotton, Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, said there had been ‘a number of fatalities’ while the London Ambulance Service said 50 people are in hospital and paramedics are treating many more walking wounded for smoke inhalation and minor burns.
Desperate survivors being cared for in several west London rescue shelters have seen sobbing as family and loved-ones, including dozens of children, remain unaccounted for. Other posted photographs of the missing on social media.
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One witness said he saw several people jumping to their deaths from all floors to escape the fire.
A survivor broke down on live TV as he said his neighbour on the fourth floor had confessed that his ‘fridge had exploded’ before fire swamped the building – but the fire service told MailOnline it is too early to confirm the cause
TIMELINE OF THE GRENFALL TOWER FIRE
- 12.30am: Residents report smelling burning plastic at this time
- 12.54am: London Fire Brigade receive the first call
- 1am: First fire engines arrive at the scene in Grenfell Tower
- 1.16am: Police are called to attend the fire
- 3am: Some residents remain trapped inside with torches still being shone from windows – the sign the emergency services asked trapped residents to give
- 8am: Fire brigade admit there have been some fatalities
- 8.30am: First indication that the fire was started by a faulty fridge
- 9.30am: Structural engineers attend the site and state it is currently considered safe
- 10.35am: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan gives a press conference promising to ‘ask questions’ about what happened in the fire
Samira Lamrani, 38, said: ‘He was just beside himself. He was just as surprised at how quickly the fire spread as anybody else.
‘I could hear him saying that he contacted the emergency services immediately and they reassured him everything would be under control within a short period of time, and obviously it wasn’t.’
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said questions will need to be answered over the safety of tower blocks in the capital as a result of the fire.
London Ambulance Service said 50 people have been rushed to five hospitals around the capital, while at least one resident is still stuck inside the block on the 11th floor, with firefighters desperately trying to reach him.
Those in the upper floors were seen flashing torches in a bid to call for help, tying bedding together to create makeshift ropes.
Panicked residents trapped high in the enormous tower were heard screaming for help as they leaned out of their windows and tied bed sheets together in an attempt to reach the ground.
Many of those evacuated said they were woken by screams, intense heat and the smell of burning plastic, thought to be white cladding that was installed on the building last year as part of a £10million refurbishment.
One woman said that residents faced ‘either jumping out the window with their children and risk breaking bones or staying where you were and dying’.
The fire is said to have spread from the second floor to the roof of the enormous 120-flat block in just 15 minutes, with 200 firefighters struggling to bring it under control.
Eyewitness Tamara told BBC News: ‘You could hear people screaming ‘help me, help me’.
‘There were people throwing their kids out [of windows], they were shouting ‘save my children’. The fire brigade were telling people to stay where they were, they were telling people ‘we’ll come and get you’.’
Hanan Wahabi, 39, who lives on the ninth floor, said she was awoken at about 1am by smoke.
‘I could see there was ash coming through the window in the living room, which was partially open,’ she said, sitting with her husband and son, 16, and daughter, eight, outside a local community centre.
‘I looked out and I could see the fire travelling up the block. It was literally by my window,’ she said. ‘I slammed the window shut and got out.’
After the family escaped, she called her brother, who lives on the 21st floor, to see if he was all right.
‘A mother on the top floor escaped with her six children. By the time she got to the bottom, she only had four with her’: Residents give horrific eyewitness accounts
A woman with six children who was attempting to escape from the 21st floor of the London tower block fire this morning got to the bottom to discover two of them were missing, it has been claimed.
Dozens of horrific eyewitness accounts have begun to emerge from the 27-storey tower block fire in White City this morning, with residents claiming people are still stuck inside the building – which houses 600 people.
There have been a ‘number of fatalities’ at the fire at Grenfell Tower in west London, London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton has told reporters.
One resident described how people were ‘just throwing their kids out’ screaming ‘save my children”.
Local resident Tamara told BBC News: ‘Around 12.30/1am my mum called me and said there was a fire outside. By the time I got there the whole right side of the building was on fire, the whole thing was engulfed in flames.
‘We could hear people screaming ‘Help me’ so me and my brother, with some other people who live in the area, ran over to the estate to where you could still get underneath it and there were people just throwing their kids out saying ‘Save my children’.
‘The fire crew, ambulance and police couldn’t do anything, they couldn’t get in, and they were just telling them to stay where they are, and we’ll come and get you. But things quickly escalated beyond measure and they couldn’t go back in and get them.
‘Within another 15 minutes the whole thing was up in flames and there were still people at their windows shouting ‘Help me’. You could see the fire going into their houses and engulfing the last room that they were in.’
Another witness, Samira, told BBC News: ‘It escalated really quickly. Around midnight the fire was only around the third floor and then, before you know it, the whole 23 floors of the building were all on fire and there were people screaming for help and throwing kids out.
‘I think everyone felt really helpless because no-one could get to them. Everyone was really scared and they didn’t know what to do and it was really sad to see. These are all people that we grew up with and people that we see every day, like our neighbours.
‘There was a lot of people there – children, elderly people and disabled people; my family members, who thankfully made it out. But there are still a lot of people who are unaccounted for.’
Tamara went on: ‘My brother has a lot of school friends who are still wondering if their friends have made it out, they haven’t got in contact with them or heard anything. One of the girls lives on the top floor, which the police advised that if you were living on that floor that it is most likely that they haven’t made it.’
Samira added: ‘I think the speed of the fire was the most shocking thing for everyone, how quick it literally went from zero to 100. Like it was literally just the fourth floor and that was bad but it was really minor, and that building is really big and the whole building was gone – even before it hit 1am the whole building was in flames.
‘I saw people flying out of their balconies and windows. I saw a man who flew out of his window, I saw people screaming for help. We saw a lot of people jumping out that basically didn’t make it. It was from the eighth floor and up, and that kind of floor you wouldn’t really make it.’
Tamara continued: ‘I had a family friend that was stuck all the way up till 5am but luckily she made it out and some others from her floor and the floors below made it out.
‘But there are people who were higher up that they just couldn’t get to because it just got out of control so quickly.
‘It was like a split second before the whole building was on fire. It started on one floor, then it took one side and then the whole building was on fire. There’s nothing you can do but watch things unfold in front of you.’
A man who lived on the 17th floor of the block, identified as Methrob, told LBC Radio: ‘I heard the fire trucks and so I was alerted that something was going on. There was no fire alarm in the building, we don’t have an integrated fire alarm system.
‘I went outside my house and I could smell the smoke. I looked out my window, I leaned over and I could see the fire blazing up. I woke up my auntie who was sleeping, it was about 1.15am, and we started to make our way down.
‘I warned a couple of my neighbours, the ones nearest to me, and we basically went as fast as we could.’
He said the fire was inside one apartment, but added the ‘real issue was when it caught fire to the cladding outside. That’s when I noticed the fire from outside when I looked out the window.
‘By the time that we got downstairs, the fire had gone all the way up and it was just about reaching our windows on the 17th floor.
‘The whole one side of the building was on fire. The cladding went up like a matchstick.’
Methrob said residents had been concerned about safety, adding that there had been warning ‘for over a year’.
Fabio Bebber wrote on Twitter: ‘More screams for help as the fire spreads to another side of the building.
‘We can see how quick the fire spreads via the external panels. It’s unbearable hearing someone screaming for their lives at #grenfelltower.’
Jamie Martin climbed through a window to escape the inferno. He told BBC Radio 4: ‘Bits of the building were falling off, I scalded my shin on a hot piece of metal.
‘I was shouting ‘Get out get out’ to people as I saw them and they were shouting back, ‘we can’t, the corridors are full of smoke’.
Actor and writer Tim Downie, who lives around 600 metres from the scene in Latimer Road, said he fears the block could collapse.
He said: ‘It’s horrendous. The whole building is engulfed in flames. It’s gone. It’s just a matter of time before this building collapses.
‘It’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen. I just hope they have got everyone out.