Business Standard

Six confirmed dead in London inferno, toll may rise

IANS  |  London 

At least six people were confirmed dead and many were missing on Wednesday when a major fire engulfed and consumed a 24-storey apartment complex in west housing hundreds.

"It was like a scene from a Hollywood movie," said a resident who escaped from the burning Grenfell Tower. Authorities warned that the death toll may go up as nearly 20 of the 70 people warded in hospitals were in critical condition.

Up to 600 people were believed to have been inside the 120 flats in north Kensington when the blaze began shortly after Tuesday midnight, The Telegraph reported.

The tragedy was compounded because police initially told the residents to stay put inside the complex. By the time they reversed the stand, it was too late.

Desperate occupants of Grenfell Tower flocked to the windows and screamed for help, many holding their children. Witness Jody Martin said: "I watched one person falling out, I watched another woman holding her baby out in the window... hearing screams."

A baby flung by a terrified woman from the ninth or tenth floor was caught by the public on the ground.

More than 12 hours after the fire broke out, over 250 firefighters continued to battle the leaping flames and thick, choking smoke. Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said: "In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never ever seen anything of this scale."

Commander Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police said: "I can confirm six fatalities. This figure is likely to rise during what will be a complex recovery operation over a number of days."

Media reports warned that the blackened tower could collapse, with cladding already falling to the ground. Explosions were heard when the fire raged.

Witnesses described people trapped in the burning tower screaming for help and yelling for their children to be saved, the BBC reported.

James Wood, a witness, told the Telegraph: "The most traumatic part was seeing children at the window screaming for help. Then the rooms would go up in flames."

One resident, Michael Paramasivan, was clear that he survived along with his girlfriend and their daughter because he ignored official advice to remain inside.

"If we had stayed in that flat, we would have perished. My gut instinct told me just to get the girls out. I wrapped the little one up because of the smoke and I just got them out," the BBC quoted him as saying.

Some residents attempted to use bin bags as makeshift parachutes in a desperate bid to escape. Firefighters rescued large numbers of people, but Mayor Sadiq Khan said many were unaccounted for. He said "questions need to be answered as soon as possible".

The cause of the fire was not clear.

As an investigation into the cause of the blaze began, residents reported that fire alarms had not sounded.

Paul Munakr, who lives on the seventh floor, escaped. "As I was going down the stairs, there were firefighters, truly amazing firefighters actually going upstairs, to the fire, trying to get as many people out of the building," he told the BBC.

Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union said something had clearly gone badly wrong with fire prevention procedures at the building built in 1974.

--IANS

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(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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