International desk – At least six people have died after a huge fire damaged a 27-storey residential tower in West London on Wednesday, media reports say quoting police.
The fire is believed to have started when a fridge exploded in the early hours.
Scotland Yard says it expects the death toll to rise amid claims dozens including children and the elderly are still missing after fire engulfed Grenfell Tower in White City, according to a report by the British newspaper daily mail online.
Residents were seen throwing themselves and their children out of windows to avoid being burned to death – others made makeshift ropes by tying sheets together, the newspaper reported.
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.
More than 50 people are being treated in hospital, London Ambulance Service says.
“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,” Commander Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police said.
He said it was likely to be some time before police could identify the victims, adding that it was too early to speculate on the cause of the fire, according to a BBC report.
An emergency number has been set up on 0800 0961 233 for anyone concerned about friends or family, it added.
London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said it was too early to speculate on the building, although it was structurally safe enough for her crews to be working inside.
She urged all residents to make sure they had reported themselves to police so that the authorities know they are safe.
By mid-morning, the building looked to be just smoking ruins but the fire has again taken hold, and cladding is falling to the ground.
Daily Mail reported the trapped were heard begging for their lives 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.
One White City resident called Tamara told the BBC: “There were people just throwing their kids out saying “Save my children”. 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.”
Those who managed to flee said it was ‘like hell on earth’ inside and compared the disaster to the 9/11 attack – and also claimed there was no working fire alarm, sprinklers failed and the only staircase out was blocked.
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.
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 their repeated warnings to landlord Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) fell on ‘deaf ears’.
KCTMO completed a £10 million refurbishment last year and the new cladding encasing the block originally built in 1974 ‘went up like a match’, one resident said.