Dozens of fire brigades deployed, people feared trapped by massive inferno at London Tower Block
Dozens of fire brigades deployed, people feared trapped by massive inferno at London Tower Block
The massive fire has engulfed the Grenfell Tower in North Kensington from the 2nd story to the top floor, the London Fire Brigade has tweeted. It added that at least 40 fire engines and 200 firefighters have been battling the blaze.
The fire, which broke out at around 1am, is believed to have started on the 4th floor, reportedly due to a faulty fridge, RT UK’s correspondent Eisa Ali reports from the scene.
The building has a history of fire safety violations and residents have been complaining about improper and outdated safety standards as recently as last year, Ali said.
Posting an update via Skype at 5am London time, Ali reported that people were still visibly trapped on some of the floors. A video uploaded by RT’s Ruptly video agency clearly shows a man opening a window close to a scorched and burning side of the building on one of the upper floors.
A sizeable number of the block’s residents are Muslim, and many might have been out of the building as it is during the holy month of Ramadan, Ali suggested. However, many others were still reportedly inside when the fire started, he added.
Meanwhile, eyewitness accounts have been pouring in, with reports claiming women and children were among those trapped on the burning floors.
London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has declared the fire a “major incident.”
No casualties have been yet officially been confirmed amid the mass evacuation, but alarming eyewitness reports of people caught in the blaze have been quoted in reports from the scene and on social media.
George Clarke, TV host of Amazing Spaces, told Radio 5 Live that even though he lives some 100 meters away, “I’m getting covered in ash, that’s how bad it is,” according to the Guardian.
“It’s so heartbreaking, I’ve seen someone flashing their torches at the top level and they obviously can’t get out,” Clarke added. “The guys are doing an incredible job to try and get people out that building, but it’s truly awful.”
A number of people who uploaded videos of the blaze to Twitter said they could hear people screaming from what seemed to be inside the tower block.
In a harrowing video shared by Twitter user Reyan, screams are heard and a person is seen fanning smoke out of a top-story apartment window.
In a post from November last year, Grenfell Action Group wrote that they “have reached the conclusion that only an incident that results in serious loss of life… will allow the external scrutiny to occur,” blaming the KCTMO (Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organization), which owns the building, of “ineptitude and incompetence.”
“It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord.”
Branding the company as an “evil, unprincipled, mini-mafia,” the residents group pointed out that the company “narrowly averted a major fire disaster” in the same tower back in 2013, when faulty wiring led to a period of power surges in the building. The group accused KCTMO of covering up the incident, aided by Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) Scrutiny Committee.
Meanwhile, it was reported that the apartment block was a subject to comprehensive £10 million renovation that was completed in May last year.
‘Only a catastrophic event will expose the neglect’: Action group called for Grenfell Tower to be pulled down FOUR YEARS ago but say their warnings about appalling safety ‘fell on deaf ears’
- The blaze engulfed the 27-storey Grenfell Tower on Latimer Road in White City on Wednesday morning
- Horrifying pictures emerged on social media showing massive flames licking up the side of the block
- Desperate residents trapped high in the enormous residential tower block were heard ‘screaming’ for help
- Police are evacuating panicked residents and two people are already being treated for smoke inhalation
- The Fire service this morning confirmed there had been ‘a number of fatalities’ as a result of the horrific fire
- An emergency telephone number has been set up for those caught up in the horrific blaze – 0800 0691 233
An action group predicted the Grenfell Tower fire was an accident waiting to happen four years ago but claim their warnings fell on deaf ears.
The fire service confirmed this morning there had been a number of fatalities in the horrific blaze which was reported just after 1am today thought to have been caused by an exploding fridge.
It engulfed the 27-storey building where 600 people were said to be living in 120 rooms.
Grenfell Action Group said: ‘Watching breaking news about the Grenfell Tower fire catastrophe. Too soon to even guess at numbers of casualties and fatalities.
‘We have posted numerous warnings in recent years about the very poor fire safety standards at Grenfell Tower and elsewhere in Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC).
‘All our warnings fell on deaf ears. This was inevitable and just a matter of time.’
The group had been posting about their concerns of tower block’s safety regularly calling for it to be torn down before it went up in flames in the early hours of this morning in White City.
Many residents who gathered outside the smoldering ruins of the building said the fire had been caused by a faulty fridge in one of the flats, but the fire service told MailOnline it could not confirm the reports at this stage
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
Police officers with riot shields escort Firemen underneath shields to protect themselves from falling debris as they enter the tower block. The scene of a huge fire at Grenfell tower block in White City, London
A fire safety notice at Granfell Tower, where police confirmed there had been a number of fatalities as a result of the blaze
The Grenfell Action Group has regularly posted warnings regarding their concerns over fire safety at the tower block
The planned drawings which show the refurbishment of existing Grenfell Tower including new external cladding and fenestration, alterations to plant room, reconfiguration of lower 4 levels to provide 7 new residential units, replacement nursery and boxing club facilities, external public realm works, redevelopment and change of use of existing garages to refuse collection area
Proposed residential floor plans showing the Grenfell Tower regeneration project dated September 10, 2012
Surviving residents walk away from the horror of the Grenfell Tower flats on the Lancaster West Estate in White City, London
Bits of debris, thought to be white cladding that was installed on the building last year as part of a £10million refurbishment, is seen falling from the building
An aerial shot of Grenfell Tower in White City where an enormous plume of smoke billows into the air as the sun rises over London
Chillingly, back in November, while addressing the managed by tenant managers Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), the group wrote: ‘It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders.’
The action group believe the KCTMO have no business to be charged with the responsibility of looking after the every day management of large scale social housing estates.
‘Unfortunately, the Grenfell Action Group have reached the conclusion that only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation.’
There is no suggestion that KCTMO are to blame for the fire and MailOnline contacted the landlords Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, but nobody was immediately available to comment.
Ministers are accused of failing to act on a fire safety overhaul that could have prevented today’s horror fire
Ministers have been accused of failing to act on pleas for an overhaul of fire safety regulations in tower blocks that could potentially have prevented the blaze in West London today.
An All-Party Parliamentary Group has been demanding changes to rules for the past four years.
However, a succession of housing ministers – including Gavin Barwell, who is now Theresa May’s chief of staff – have not reformed the regulations.
Ronnie King, a former fire chief in Wales who is an adviser to the group, told MailOnline that failings were uncovered following a devastating tower block fire at Lakanal House in south London in 2009, which killed six people.
They included panels on the outside walls not providing the necessary fire resistance.
‘The building regulations relating to the fire safety were last reviewed in 2006,’ he said.
Mr King said the type of cladding installed on Grenfell Tower did not appear to have been resistant to the fire spreading.
That was one of the issue with the regulations that was raised by the APPG with three successive ministers, he said.
Last year with Mr Barwell the APPG ‘pressed him for a review of the building regulations, stressing of course Lakanal House’.
‘He said he was still looking at it,’ Mr King said.
Mr King said: ‘I think that there are obvious questions to be asked…
‘If it had had some fire suppression it would not have spread literally up the building as it did.’
He added: ‘The APPG has sought a review since the Lakanal House fire. In our view that was sufficient evidence that things are not right and things need to change.’
Mr King said without looking inside Grenfell Tower he was confident that it did not have fire suppression measures such as sprinklers.
He said there were 4,000 tower blocks that did not have sprinkler systems around the country, and that needed to be tackled urgently.
A man (circled) looks from a window as smoke pours from a fire that has engulfed the 27-storey Grenfell Tower in west London
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
At least one resident is still stuck inside the block on the 11th floor, with firefighters still desperately trying to reach him
In this image taken by eyewitness Gurbuz Binici, a huge fire engulfs the 27-storey Grenfell Tower in Latimer Road, White City
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
Firefighters have been battling the blaze for several hours and while the flames are slowly being brought under control, there are fears the tower could collapse
The charred remains of hundreds of peoples homes are desperately doused in water by firefighters as they try to bring the raging blaze under control
An action group predicted the Grenfell Tower fire was an accident waiting to happen four years ago but claim their warnings fell on deaf ears (pictured: the tower before the blaze)
The tower block underwent a £10million refurbishment which was completed in May last year, and improvements included the installation of insulated exterior cladding, new double glazed windows and a new communal heating system.
The two year project, which was designed and delivered by KCTMO in partnership with Rydon Construction, was a complex one as it took place with all 120 flats occupied throughout the time period.
Robert Black, KCTMO’s Chief Executive, said: ‘We’re delighted to have worked in partnership with the Council to deliver this major regeneration of the tower.
‘This has improved the homes overall and residents can now have the benefits of living in energy-efficient homes, all in a vastly improved environment.’
More than one resident has claimed that there was no central fire alarm system for the tower block – or it had failed – and only smoke alarms in individual flats were working.
There are also claims that there that there was no central sprinkler system – or it was also not working properly during the fire.
Others have claimed that the new cladding encasing the block added during last year’s £10million refurbishment caught alight ‘like a matchstick’.
Today’s blaze is an almost carbon copy of a fire in October 2015 in another KCTMO property, when sleeping residents were evacuated from a tower block and 16 people taken to hospital after a fire in a third-floor flat.
Firefighters rescued 50 people from the 14-storey building in west London and two residents were forced to escape from their balconies as the blaze raged.
Residents crawled to safety and described seeing ‘fireballs’ at Adair Tower in Appleford Road in North Kensington.
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 (shown) were unable to get close to the building, which was built in 1974
A woman covered in ash is comforted by others as she looks on while the enormous fire rages through the night and into the morning
Residents in the burning tower were said to be evacuating and a number of people were treated for a ‘range of injuries,’ Metropolitan Police said
In the aftermath of the Adair Tower fire the London Fire Brigade found that the KCTMO had not been looking after the safety of residents properly and issued an Enforcement Order ordering them to improve the fire safety in the escape staircases and to provide self-closing devices to all the tower block’s front doors.
TIMELINE OF THE FIRE
12.30am: Residents report smelling burning plastic at this time
12.54am: London Fire Brigade receive the first call
- 1am: First fire engines arrive at the scene in Grenfell Tower
- 1.16am: Police are called to attend the fire
- 3am: Some residents remain trapped inside with torches still being shone from windows – the sign the emergency services asked trapped residents to give
- 8am: Fire brigade admit there have been some fatalities
- 8.30am: First indication that the fire was started by a faulty fridge
A further audit by the London Fire Brigade of the neighbouring Hazelwood Tower found similar breaches of health and safety legislation and an Enforcement Order was also issued for this property forcing the tenant management agency to address the serious concerns of the Fire Brigade’s inspectors.
The pressure group, making a statement after the audit following the Adair Tower fire, said: ‘The Grenfell Action Group predict that it won’t be long before the words of this blog come back to haunt the KCTMO management.
‘They can’t say that they haven’t been warned.’
The cause of the blaze at the Grenfell tower is not known, but several hundred people would have been in the block when the fire was reported at 1.15am on Wednesday, while 50 have been taken to hospital.
Early indications suggest it might have been a faulty fridge that sparked the blaze.
The Grenfell Action Group said there was one entry and exit to Grenfell Tower during improvement works at the block in Latimer Road and it had issues with evacuation procedures at the building.
Following the fire, the group posted: ‘All our warnings fell on deaf ears and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time.’
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.
Firefighters tackling a huge inferno at a residential tower block in West London fear the 27-storey building could collapse
A resident in another tower block looks on as thick plumes of smoke fill the air in west London following the devastating fire
As residents flooded the streets outside the burning building, many spoke of members of their family or close neighbours being unaccounted for
The images of the blazing Grenfell Tower flats are also reminiscent of the scenes of a fire in south London in 2009 in which six people died.
The blaze at Lakanal Flats, off Dalwood Street in Camberwell, killed a three-week-old baby, two children aged three and six, and three adults.
London Fire Brigade said the blaze – caused by an electrical fault with a television – began on the fourth floor of the 12-storey block and ‘spread rapidly’ to the 11th floor.
Designer Catherine Hickman, 31, who had been commissioned by the singer Bjork and whose work had been stocked in shops in New York, died in the blaze in July alongside Helen Udoaka, 34, and her three-week-old daughter Michelle.
Dayana Francisquini, 26, and her children, six-year-old Thais and Felipe, three, were also killed.
Southwark Council was fined £270,000 at Southwark Crown Court and ordered to pay £300,000 in costs in February after admitting a series of failings at the site.
The charges, dating from October 1 2006 to July 3 2009, included a failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, failure to take general fire precautions, including in relation to safety of employees, and a failure to ensure premises are subject to a suitable system of maintenance.
The prosecution said the case was related to risks at the building before the fire, rather than being related to the cause of the blaze.