Families ‘begged for their lives’ as they tried to escape a huge inferno at a residential tower block in West London, with fears that people are still trapped inside with 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
Fire crews from North Kensington, Kensington, Hammersmith and Paddington and from surrounding fire stations are in attendance. The cause of the fire is not known at this stage.
Tim Downie, who lives a few hundred feet from the building, told Sky News: ‘The acrid smell is just horrendous. The building has pretty much burnt out, there are just a few bits that are still not burning.
‘Every single window is gutted. There is debris falling off it. The heat was extraordinary. The fire has wrapped itself around the block. People on the street said it started on the fourth floor and spread all the way up and around.
The London Fire Brigade said: ‘Crews continue to work hard at tower block fire in North Kensington. Fire is from 2nd to top floor of 27 storey building.’
Firemen were inside trying to get people out of the building, which was built in 1974 and part of the Lancaster West Estate.
‘Police have been asking everyone to go inside. Fire spread and not yet showing signs of coming under control.’
A third added: ’24 storeys burning in West London area. All floors and columns burning.’
Met Police said in a statement: ‘Police were called at 1.16am on Wednesday, 14 June to reports of a large fire at a block of flats in the Lancaster West Estate, W11.
‘Officers, the London Fire Brigade and the London Ambulance Service are currently at the scene. An evacuation process is underway.
‘At this stage we are aware of two people being treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. We await an update as to whether there are any further injuries.
‘The Local Authority has been informed. Cordons are in place and it is advised that the estate and surrounding area is avoided.’