Several people have been confirmed dead after a huge inferno broke out at a residential tower block in West London.
Eyewitnesses revealed how families ‘begged for their lives’ as they tried to escape the blaze, while people are still trapped inside the 27-storey building as it teeters on the brink of collapse.
More than 600 residents desperately tried to escape the flames as the fire broke out in the middle of the night, with many woken by the screams of others and the smell of burning plastic.
Grenfell Tower in Latimer Road, White City, is currently ‘lurching’ to one side after a ‘very, very severe fire’ broke out in the early hours of Wednesday morning, with those inside claiming a fire alarm failed to sound.
As residents flooded the streets outside the building, many spoke of members of their family or close neighbours being unaccounted for, as they were forced to watch on as their home and all their belongings went up in flames.
One neighbour said he believed someone had jumped from about 10 to 15 floors to escape the fire, while there were screams of joy and a relief as a five-year-old girl was pulled from the flames by emergency services.
Dany Cotton, Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, said there had been ‘a number of fatalities’ following a ‘unprecedented incident’ that she described as the largest in scale that she had seen in her 29-year career.
London Ambulance Service said 30 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.
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.
The heat was said to be so intense that firefighters were unable to get close to the building, which was built in 1974.
Among those being evacuated was what a man described as a ‘heavily disabled woman’, who was being carried down the stairs by firefighters.
Mouna Elogbani, who lives on the 11th floor with her husband and three children, aged 13, 10 and two, said she got a phone call from a neighbour warning her that the block was alight.
She said: ‘I was in my home going to bed, It was around 1.30am and my children were asleep.
‘My friend called on the phone and told me that the building was on fire, it was coming towards our floor and we needed to get out.
‘I woke up my children and we carried them out of the flat – but when we opened the door to escape the flames burst into the house and we had to shut it again. We got out through a fire escape and down the stairs.
‘I know that there are people trapped on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd floors and one of my neighbours has passed away’.
The 27-storey block, believed to contain around 120 flats, underwent a £10million refurbishment last year.
Mrs Elogbani said: ‘It was not safe anymore. They took away the security – it was no longer 100 per cent safe.
When asked about worries about how it would cope in a major fire she said: ‘I wouldn’t be surprised’.
She said: ‘We’ve lost everything. I am feeling sick, shocked and angry’.
A woman resident said: ‘Some residents did escape. I heard some people shouting help from their windows from 20 floors. I saw them flashing their lights… and then they stopped.
‘I don’t know what happened – or if they are safe. It was really horrible.’
Schoolboy Omar Kalam, 11, was standing anxiously at the emergency service cordon with father Walid, 44.
‘My brother has friends and they live in there,” he said. “I’m not sure if they are all right yet.’
Parents from nearby Kensington Aldridge Academy, where Omar attends, had been told the school was closed, his father said.
Nassima Boutrig, who lives opposite the building, said she was awakened by sirens and smoke so thick that it filled her home as well.
‘We saw the people screaming,’ she said. ‘A lot of people said “Help, help, help”. The fire brigade could only help downstairs. It was fire up, up, up. They couldn’t stop the fire.’
Boutrig said her friend’s brother, wife and children lived in the building and that her friend was waiting to find out if they were OK.
Flatowners in their pyjamas have been evacuated as police are pushing people away from the area for fear the block will collapse due to ‘chunks’ of debris flying off from the tower.
The cordon around the block has been pushed back by police and homes surrounding it evacuated amid fears that the building could collapse in the densely populated area of London.
Police, 40 fire engines and helicopters rushed to the scene as horrifying pictures emerged on social media showing giant flames licking up the side of the block.