Published: Thu, June 15, 2017
World News | By Carolyn Briggs

Firefighters battle massive blaze in London high-rise

Flames shot from windows all the way up the 24-story Grenfell Tower in North Kensington as more than 200 firefighters battled the blaze.

Black smoke billowed high into the air for hours after the blaze broke out.

Nearly immediately after reports emerged of a massive fire engulfing a 24-storey high-rise in West London on Wednesday morning, Londoners took to social media platforms offering whatever assistance they could to displaced strangers in their time of need.

London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton there had been "a number of fatalities" but she could not confirm how many.

London Fire Brigade assistant commissioner Dan Daly said: "Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus are working extremely hard in very difficult conditions to tackle this fire".

Residents were seen screaming, waving and even throwing babies from upper-floor windows as the blaze tore through a 24-storey tower block in Notting Hill in the early hours of Wednesday.

At least one person was reported to have fallen from a top floor, in flames.

Reuters says residents recalled how they woke up to the smell of burning and rushed to escape through smoke-filled corridors. Some were evacuated in their pajamas.

Police Commander Stuart Cundy said a "recovery operation" could take some time and there could be people in the building who are unaccounted for, though he would not be drawn on a figure.

Mr Bercow said MPs offered their "warmest and most effusive thanks" to the "magnificent" emergency services who responded to the huge fire at the west London tower block.

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton confirmed "a number of fatalities" from the inferno which broke out just before 1am United Kingdom time and burned upwards from the second floor of the tower, but she declined to speculate on a cause of the fire.

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Hospitals are treating 74 people, 20 of whom are critical and a dedicated helpline has been set up for anxious family members to contact.

Some witness reports say children and a baby were seen being thrown out of windows amid the blaze.

A residents' action group said its warnings about safety had fallen on "deaf ears".

Ms Gould said: "Our deepest sympathies go out to all those involved and affected by the fire at Grenfell Tower in west London, and particularly to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives in this tragedy. I wrapped the little one up because of the smoke and I just got them out".

"We could see a lot of children and parents screaming for 'Help!"

"The more I looked up, floor upon floor".

"The first thing I heard were the screams and I came running out". Firefighters carried out systematic searches throughout the charred wreckage and officials urged tower residents to call a hotline to help them get a handle on the number of missing.

Fire action notices in the tower advised that unless the fire was in or affecting their flat, they should remain in their homes.

The All-Party Parliamentary Fire and Rescue Group has been demanding changes to the rules since 2013.

With the fire now under control, a lengthy investigation will begin.

The local council of Kensington and Chelsea, which owns the block, said it was focusing on supporting the rescue and relief operation.

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