A massive fire has engulfed a 24-story apartment building in west London, killing an unknown number of people and injuring at least 30 others, officials and witnesses say. The cause of the blaze was not immediately known.
The incident began at 12:54 a.m. on Wednesday when firefighters were called to reports of a fire at the Grenfell Tower in north Kensington. The fire spread rapidly, engulfing nearly the entire building from the second to the top floor.
Witnesses said multiple people were still trapped in the burning building as of 5 a.m., though it remains unclear how many residents may have been unable to escape. Videos at the scene of the inferno showed at least two people who were trapped in separate apartments.
“Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus are working extremely hard in very difficult conditions to tackle this fire,” said Assistant Commissioner Dan Daly of the London Fire Brigade. “This is a large and very serious incident and we have deployed numerous resources and specialist appliances.”
At least 200 firefighters, 40 fire trucks, and 20 ambulance crews were called to the scene.
“This is an unprecedented incident. In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never, ever, seen anything of this scale,” London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said just before 8 a.m. “I’m very sad to confirm that there have been a number of fatalities. I cannot confirm the number at this time due to the size and complexity of this building.”
In addition to fatalities, Stuart Crichton, the Assistant Director of Operations at the London Ambulance Service, said more than 30 injured people had been taken to 5 London hospitals. “We have declared a major incident and continue to work closely with other emergency services at the scene,” he said.
Crichton added: “We have over 20 ambulance crews at the scene as well as our hazardous area response team and trauma teams from London’s air ambulance who traveled to the scene by car. Our priority is to assess the level and nature of injuries and ensure those in the most need are treated first and taken to hospital.”
Sky News reported that police have told people who hear from those trapped inside the building to urge them to self-evacuate and to not wait for help. It came amid fears that the apartment building could potentially collapse and some witnesses said they had received calls from those trapped inside.
During the night, numerous witnesses said they saw multiple people being forced to jump from the burning building, although authorities have yet to confirm that. Footage from the scene showed at least several people standing behind windows, trying to signal for help as the fires spread around them.
The cause of the blaze is still unknown, Cotton said.
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