Thu, Jun 15, 2017 - Page 1 News List

London inferno kills at least six

SAVE THE CHILDREN:Witnesses said residents on upper floors screamed for help, while some threw their children, including one baby, to safety below

Reuters, LONDON

Smoke billows from a fire that engulfed the 24-story Grenfell Tower in London, England, yesterday.

Photo: AP

Fire engulfed a 24-story housing block in central London early yesterday, killing at least six people and injuring 74 others in an inferno that trapped residents as they slept.

Some residents screamed for help from behind upper-floor windows, while others tried to throw children to safety, as flames raced through the high-rise Grenfell Tower block of apartments in the north Kensington area after taking hold just before 1am.

“We could see a lot of children and parents screaming: ‘Help! Help! Help!’ and putting their hands on the window and asking to help them,” witness Amina Sharif told reporters. “We could do nothing and we could see the stuff on the side was falling off, collapsing. We were just standing screaming and they were screaming.”

Another witness, Saimar Lleshi, saw people tying together sheets in an attempt to escape.

“I saw three people putting sheets together to climb down, but no one climbed down. I don’t know what happened to them,” Lleshi said. “Even when the lights went off, people were waving with white shirts to be seen.”

More than 200 firefighters, backed up by 40 fire engines, fought for hours to try to bring the blaze, one of the biggest seen in central London in memory, under control.

By midday, London police said six people had been killed, warning that the death toll was likely to rise.

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

Firefighters still had to reach the top four floors of the building where several hundred people live in 130 apartments.

The cause of the inferno, which left the tower block a charred, smoking shell, was not immediately known.

The block had recently undergone an £8.7 million (US$11.13 million) refurbishment of the exterior, which included new external cladding and replacement windows.

Black smoke billowed high into the air for hours after the blaze broke out. Residents rushed to escape through smoke-filled corridors after being woken up by the smell of smoke.

The London Fire Brigade said the fire engulfed all floors from the second to the top of the 24-story block.

There were reports that some residents leaped out of windows to escape the flames.

One woman lost two of her six children as she tried to escape from the block, one witness said.

“I spoke to a lady that lives on the 21st floor. She has got six kids. She left with all six of them. When she got downstairs there was only four of them with her. She is now breaking her heart,” block resident Michael Paramasivan told BBC radio.

Other witnesses spoke of children, including a baby, being thrown to safety, from windows high up.

One witness, Tamara, told the BBC: “There’s people, like, throwing their kids out: ‘Just save my children, just save my children!’”

“In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never ever seen anything of this scale,” London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton told reporters.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the fire raised questions over safety of high-rise blocks such as Grenfell Tower.

The BBC reported that a political deal between the government of British Prime Minister Theresa May and a small Northern Irish party could be delayed because of the aftermath of the fire.

More than 12 hours after the fire broke out, the building was still smoldering, although the building was not in danger of collapse.

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