Death toll rises to 12 in London high-rise apartments fire

Flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. (REUTERS/ TOBY MELVILLE)

UPDATES:

12:30 P.M. — London police say the death toll in an early morning apartment tower fire has now risen to 12.

Fears are growing for people who are unaccounted for after the huge fire raced through an apartment block in West London shortly after midnight.

Between 400 and 600 people are said to live in the building, which houses 120 apartments and was still burning some 14 hours after the blaze broke out in the early hours of Wednesday. It is unclear how many people were inside the building at the time and how many were able to escape. Authorities asked residents who had escaped to contact a help line so that they could be accounted for.

Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy says he anticipated “that there may be people within that building that are as yet unaccounted for.”

Police also say the scale of the tower blaze was so extreme that one like it had not been seen ‘in years’.

7:10 A.M. — London’s Ambulance Service says 74 people are being treated following a massive apartment fire in west London.

Paul Woodrow, the head of operations, says 20 of those patients are in critical condition.

He says the patients are being treated for a range of injuries and smoke inhalation. The London Ambulance Service previously said around 50 people were being treated after the blaze.

Police say six people died in the early morning fire, which broke out after midnight Wednesday at Grenfell Tower, an apartment block housing 120 homes.

6:20 A.M. — London’s Metropolitan Police say six people have died in the devastating fire that engulfed a west London apartment block. Police say the number is expected to rise.

Police commander Stuart Cundy says he 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.”

Cundy says many others are receiving medical care.


(ORIGINAL STORY)

LONDON, England (CBSN)  A massive fire raced through a high-rise apartment building in west London early Wednesday, leaving an unknown number of people dead and dozens more hospitalized.

The London Ambulance Service says it had taken more than 50 patients to five different hospitals across the British capital.

Dany Cotton, Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade says early Wednesday morning there were “a number” of fatalities, but he could not be more specific as the massive operation at the building was ongoing.

“In my 29 years of firefighting I have seen nothing of this scale,” Cotton says.

Smoke billows from the Grenfell Tower apartment building after it was engulfed in flames in North Kensington, London, June 14, 2017. (REUTERS)

Flames shot from windows all the way up the side of the 24-story Grenfell Tower in North Kensington as firefighters battled the blaze, and a plume of smoke could be seen for several miles.

Paul Littlejohn, who lives opposite Grenfell Tower, tells the BBC he woke up at about 1:30 a.m. (8:30 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday) to see the building across the street “in a towering inferno, blaze, just fire coming out of every window, windows smashing and exploding.”

“Things falling out, people screaming, people jumping out on fire, chucking ropes down what they’d made out of bedsheets, to try and climb out. Just complete nightmare, absolute nightmare,” recounts Littlejohn.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known. Residents say it appeared to start in an apartment on a lower floor and spread upward quickly.

The blaze started around 1 a.m. London time, and smoke was still pouring from the building more than six hours later.

Reuters says residents recalled how they woke up to the smell of burning and rushed to escape through smoke-filled corridors.

Flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. (REUTERS / TOBY MELVILLE)

Nassima Boutrig, who lives opposite the building, says she was awakened by sirens and smoke so thick that it filled her home as well.

“We saw the people screaming,” she says. “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 says her friend’s brother, wife and children lived in the building and that her friend was waiting to find out if they were okay.

Firefighters stand amid debris in a playground near a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain, June 14, 2017. (REUTERS)

Ambulances and firetrucks filled the streets around the building, which is located in a diverse, working class area of London. People who live nearby were evacuated, some carrying pets in their arms as they left. Volunteers handed out bottled water.

Helicopters hovered overhead and smoke hung over the scene. Exhausted firefighters sprawled on the pavement just inside the police cordon, drinking water from plastic bottles.

Police closed the A40, a major road leading out of west London, while some parts of London’s Underground train network were closed as a precaution, Reuters reports.

The London Fire Brigade says 45 fire engines and 200 firefighters were called to the scene and Assistant Fire Commissioner Dan Daly said it was a large and very serious incident.

“Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus are working extremely hard in very difficult conditions to tackle this fire,” he says in a post on the brigade’s Facebook page.

George Clarke, the presenter of “Amazing Spaces,” tells Radio 5 Live he was covered in ash even though he was 100 yards from the scene.

He says he saw people waving flashlights from the top levels of the building and saw rescuers “doing an incredible job” trying to get people out.

Tim Downie, who lives not far away, tells Britain’s Press Association he feared the block could collapse. He says he heard sirens, helicopters and shouting and then saw the building engulfed in flames.

“It’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen. I just hope they have got everyone out,” he says. “People have been bringing water, clothes, anything they’ve got to help, out to the cordon.”

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