Eyewitnesses have spoken of the horrifying scenes at the site of massive blaze that destroyed a high rise block of flats in west London.
Residents who escaped the fire at the 27-storey Grenfell Tower in north Kensington spoke of others trapped and screaming for help, with some holding children from windows and others jumping from upper floors.
One eyewitness spoke of how they saw a resident falling from their window as they desperately tried to escape the fire, which has so far resulted in six deaths.
Jody Martin, who arrived at the scene just as fire engines turned up, told the BBC: “I watched one person falling out, I watched another woman holding her baby out the window… hearing screams, I was yelling everyone to get down and they were saying ‘We can’t leave our apartments, the smoke is too bad on the corridors’.”
Pictures from the scene showed flames engulfing the block and a plume of smoke visible across the capital, while others showed residents looking out of windows in the block.
The leader of Kensington and Chelsea Borough Nick Paget-Brown said “several hundred” people would have been in the block when the fire broke out.
Actor and writer Tim Downie, who lives around 600 metres from the scene in Latimer Road, said he feared the block could collapse.
He said: “It’s horrendous. The whole building is engulfed in flames. It’s gone. It’s just a matter of time before this building collapses.
“It’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen. I just hope they have got everyone out.
“The first I knew was the noise of sirens, helicopters and shouting. I saw it engulfed in flames.
“People have been bringing water, clothes, anything they’ve got to help, out to the cordon.
“I have seen people coming out in their bedclothes – it’s just very distressing.”
Others described the screams that pierced the air.
Fabio Bebber wrote on Twitter: “More screams for help as the fire spreads to another side of the building.
“We can see how quick the fire spreads via the external panels. It’s unbearable hearing someone screaming for their lives at #grenfelltower.”
George Clarke, who presents the Channel 4 TV show Amazing Spaces and lives close to the block, told Radio 5 Live: “I was in bed and heard ‘beep, beep, beep’ and thought, ‘I’ll get up and run downstairs as quickly as I could’.
“I thought it might be a car alarm outside and saw the glow through the windows.
“I’m getting covered in ash, that’s how bad it is. I’m 100 metres away and I’m absolutely covered in ash.
“It’s so heartbreaking, I’ve seen someone flashing their torches at the top level and they obviously can’t get out.
“The guys are doing an incredible job to try and get people out that building, but it’s truly awful.”
Shortly after 6am, London Ambulance Service said 30 people had been taken to five hospitals.
More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze which was reported just after 1.15am on Wednesday.
London Fire Brigade assistant commissioner Dan Daly said: “Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus are working extremely hard in very difficult conditions to tackle this fire.
“This is a large and very serious incident and we have deployed numerous resources and specialist appliances.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted: “Major incident declared at Grenfell Tower in Kensington” and urged people to follow London Fire Brigade on Twitter.
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) June 14, 2017
— London Ambulance (@Ldn_Ambulance) June 14, 2017
Former chancellor and now editor of the Evening Standard George Osborne tweeted: “Just seen this awful tower block fire near my home in W London. My prayers with those affected & heroes tackling it.”
London Fire Brigade said the cause of the fire was not known at this stage.
However, residents said refurbishment work had recently been carried out with cladding on the outside of the structure and work on the gas supply to the flats.
A residents action group said their warnings about safety had fallen on “deaf ears”.
A blog post from the Grenfell Action Group from November 2016 said “only a catastrophic event” would expose the concerns residents had.
The Metropolitan Police have set up a casualty bureau for anyone concerned about their friends and family on 0800 0961 233.
Top pic: PA