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London fire: Six killed, 74 in hospital, 20 critical after Grenfell Tower blaze and death toll likely to rise, say police - Theresa May 'deeply saddened'

  • Six people have died - 20 are critical
  • 74 people taken to five hospitals
  • Cause of the fire is not yet clear
  • Company which carried out £8.6m refurbishment says work 'met all required building control, fire regulation, and health and safety standards'

  • London Fire Brigade first called at 12.54am on Wednesday morning to Grenfell Tower

Six people have died and twenty are in a critical condition after a huge fire destroyed a tower block in west London.

Police said the number of fatalities was likely to rise. Seventy-four others are being treated in six hospitals across the capital following the massive blaze which engulfed the block of flats in the west of the capital.

Read more: London fire: Safety check call for Northern Ireland tower blocks after Grenfell inferno

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Many residents remain unaccounted for and the cause of the fire is not yet known. However, one resident has said she heard one man claim his faulty fridge had caught fire.

<< Do you know anyone from Northern Ireland who lives near Grenfell Tower? Get in touch here  or call 02890554828>>

Samira Lamrani, 38, who lives on nearby Hurstway Walk, told the Press Association: "When I arrived on the scene he (the resident) was amongst the people that were standing there.

"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."

She said she thought the fire started on the second floor.

Witnesses have also told of the screams of residents.

"All I could hear was 'help, help, help'," said resident Ann Waters who lives at the foot of the building.

"The guy next door was screaming at people to get out of the building.  I went out the front I could see all the debris coming down and I could see the crap coming down and a police officer told me to shut the door and leave and go to the end of the road.

"It was like something out of a nightmare."

THERESA MAY 'DEEPLY SADDENED'

Prime Minister Theresa May has said she is "deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life" in the Grenfell Tower fire.

Police and Fire Minister Nick Hurd will chair a meeting of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat to co-ordinate the response to the disaster and the Government is ready to assist "as necessary", a Number 10 spokesman said.

"The Prime Minister is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life in the Grenfell Tower and is being kept constantly updated on the situation," the spokesman said.

"She has asked for a cross-Government meeting at the Civil Contingencies Secretariat to take place at 4pm to co-ordinate the response and ensure the Government is ready to assist the emergency services and local authorities as necessary.

"The PM's thoughts are with all of those affected by this terrible incident and the emergency services, who are working tirelessly in very difficult circumstances."

A London Fire Brigade spokeswoman said firefighters worked in "extremely challenging conditions" to rescue people from the inferno.

A residents group for Grenfell Tower - the London tower block ravaged in a devastating fire - said its warnings fell on "deaf ears" after it highlighted safety concerns at the Kensington apartments.

The Grenfell Action Group, writing in a blog as smoke continued to billow from the block, highlighted its previous posts warning of such an incident.

In November it said "only a catastrophic event" would expose the issues.

The group said there was only one entry and exit to the tower during improvement works at the block in Latimer Road and it had issues with evacuation procedures.

The group claimed access to the building was "severely restricted" for emergency services and other vehicles and that residents were advised to stay in their flats in case of fire. 

The tower block was recently refurbished at a cost of £8.6 million, with work completed in May last year.

Read more: London inferno: Refurbishment of Grenfell Tower 'met regulations', company says

The construction firm which refurbished Grenfell Tower said its work "met all required building control, fire regulation, and health and safety standards".

Rydon carried out an £8.6 million project, completed in May 2016, to modernise the outside of the building, which saw new cladding and windows installed.

In a statement, the Sussex-based firm said it was shocked by the "devastating" blaze, adding: "Rydon completed a refurbishment of the building in the summer of 2016 for KCTMO (Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation) on behalf of the council, which met all required building control, fire regulation, and health and safety standards.

"We will co-operate with the relevant authorities and emergency services and fully support their inquiries into the causes of this fire at the appropriate time."

The company said it would not be commenting further "given the ongoing nature of the incident and the tragic events overnight".

 

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(Natalie_Oxford/PA)

More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze which was reported just after 1.15am on Wednesday at the 27-storey Grenfell Tower in north Kensington.

The Metropolitan Police have set up a casualty bureau for anyone concerned about their friends and family on 0800 0961 233.

Here's what we know so far: 

  • London Fire Brigade first called at 12.54am on Wednesday morning to the Grenfell Tower in Latimer Road.

  • The building in north Kensington is at least 24 stories high.

  • Forty engines containing more than 200 firefighters attended the scene.

  • Thirty people were taken to five hospitals following the fire.

  • Fire crews from north Kensington, Kensington, Hammersmith and Paddington and surrounding stations were at the scene with the fire burning from the second to the top floor.

  • The cause of the fire is not yet clear.

  • London mayor Sadiq Khan has said the fire has been declared a "major incident".

  • The Grenfell Tower was built in 1974 and contains 120 homes, according to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

  • More than 20 ambulance crews were sent to the scene, London Ambulance Service said.

The leader of Kensington and Chelsea Borough Nick Paget-Brown said "several hundred" people would have been in the block when the fire broke out.

Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick - chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group - said the Government has resisted calls to install sprinkler systems in high-rise blocks in the wake of the Lakanal House tragedy.

Mr Fitzpatrick, who was a firefighter for 20 years, told LBC: "We've been pressing for fire sprinkler systems in buildings where we think it's appropriate - certainly over a height level and in places where there is vulnerability, care homes and in schools - and Government has been resisting that for some time."

But the MP for Poplar and Limehouse added: "There's obviously a huge number of questions going to have to be asked about what happened to Latimer Road but it's very early in the situation.

"It's a bit early to start pointing fingers, I would have thought."

Actor and writer Tim Downie, who lives around 600 metres from the scene in Latimer Road said he feared the block could collapse.

AFP_PJ4MF.jpg
This handout image received by local resident Natalie Oxford early on June 14, 2017 shows flames and smoke coming from a 27-storey block of flats after a fire broke out in west London. The fire brigade said 40 fire engines and 200 firefighters had been called to the blaze in Grenfell Tower, which has 120 flats. / AFP PHOTO / Natalie Oxford / Natalie OXFORD /

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.

"The first I knew was the noise of sirens, helicopters and shouting. I saw it engulfed in flames.

"People have been bringing water, clothes, anything they've got to help, out to the cordon.

"I have seen people coming out in their bedclothes - it's just very distressing."

AFP_PJ4G7.jpg
Firefighters react as a huge fire engulfs the Grenfell Tower early June 14, 2017 in west London. The massive fire ripped through a 27-storey apartment block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday, trapping residents inside as 200 firefighters battled the blaze. Police and fire services attempted to evacuate the concrete block and said "a number of people are being treated for a range of injuries", including at least two for smoke inhalation. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel Leal-OlivasDANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

Jody Martin said he got to the scene just as the first fire engine was arriving at Grenfell Tower, in Latimer Road.

He told the BBC: "I grabbed an axe from the fire truck, it looked like there was a bit of confusion about what to do. 

"I ran around the building looking for a fire escape and couldn't see any noticeable fire escapes around the building. A lot of debris falling down. 

"I eventually gained entry on to the second floor, and once I got to the corridor I realised there was so much smoke there." 

He added that given the thickness of the smoke, he would be surprised if anyone could have left the building without assistance. 

"I watched one person falling out, I watched another woman holding her baby out the window... hearing screams, I was yelling everyone to get down and they were saying 'We can't leave our apartments, the smoke is too bad on the corridors'," he said. 

Nick Paget-Brown described the blaze as a "very, very severe fire".

He told Sky News: "Clearly it's an absolutely devastating fire. 

FIRE Gren (14).jpg
Smoke and flames rise from a building on fire in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Metropolitan Police in London say they're continuing to evacuate people from a massive apartment fire in west London. The fire has been burning for more than three hours and stretches from the second to the 27th floor of the building.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

"Several hundred would have been in there. It's a question of establishing how many people were in there at the time of the fire. 

"I'm really not in any position to answer any questions about the structure. 

"Clearly there's a lot more work to do to evacuate the building and to establish how safe it is."

Fire crews from north Kensington, Kensington, Hammersmith and Paddington and surrounding stations were at the scene with the fire burning from the second to the top floor.

The cause of the fire was not known at this stage, London Fire Brigade said.

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."

George Clarke, who presents the Channel 4 TV show Amazing Spaces, told Radio 5 Live: "I was in bed and heard 'beep, beep, beep' and thought, 'I'll get up and run downstairs as quickly as I could'.

"I thought it might be a car alarm outside and saw the glow through the windows.

FIRE Gren (22).jpg
A person, bottom right, peers out of a window from a building on fire in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Metropolitan Police in London say they're continuing to evacuate people from a massive apartment fire in west London. The fire has been burning for more than three hours and stretches from the second to the 27th floor of the building.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

"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.

"The guys are doing an incredible job to try and get people out that building, but it's truly awful."

London Fire Brigade assistant commissioner Dan Daly said: "Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus are 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."

London Ambulance said it had sent a "number of resources" to the scene, including its Hazardous Area Response Team.

London mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted: "Major incident declared at Grenfell Tower in Kensington" and urged people to follow London Fire Brigade on Twitter.

Former chancellor and now editor of the Evening Standard George Osborne tweeted: "Just seen this awful tower block fire near my home in W London. My prayers with those affected & heroes tackling it."

Transport for London said there was no service between Hammersmith and Edgware Road on the Circle and Hammersmith and City lines, while the police said the A40 was closed in both directions, owing to the fire.

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