South Kensington fire: Residents 'run for their lives' as blaze breaks out in five-storey building with 11 taken to hospital

Witnesses described how people were left choking and running for their lives after a blaze at flat block in South Kensington.

Firefighters were on Friday morning still tackling the blaze more than eight hours after they were scrambled to the scene near Gloucester Road station.

Eleven people were taken to hospital and five people rescued after the fire broke out at a converted terraced house.

Edward Green, 31, a student said: “The smoke was incredibly thick. I live around the corner but the people in my block were coughing. People were shouting and running I just hope no one died. The fire looked as if it was coming up the building from the basement.

“People were evacuating and escaping it was very serious I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Carmen Pedrosa, 38, a housekeeper who works in a neighbouring road, said: “There was shouting ‘get out get out’ people were running for their lives. There were flames shooting up. Loads of firefighters arrived and were directing people away.”

A local said: “We heard it was possibly an electrical fault in the basement but nothing had been confirmed to us.”

A London Ambulance Service spokesperson said 11 people were treated on scene before being taken to “London hospitals and major trauma centres”.

London Fire Brigade said the injured were treated for smoke inhalation and that the third floor of the property and roof were destroyed in the fire.

The first and second floors were extensively damaged and the ground floor was also partly damaged in the incident.

The service said 15 fire engines and about 100 firefighters attended the scene, where half of the ground floor of the building was alight.

Around 15 people left the building before firefighters arrived, with around 160 people in total evacuated from the property where the fire started and its neighbouring buildings.

Firefighters at the scene on Friday morning (James Manning/PA Wire)
Firefighters at the scene on Friday morning (James Manning/PA Wire)

The brigade said two people were rescued from a second floor flat, one person was rescued from a first floor flat and another two were rescued from a flat on the fourth floor.

Roads around the blaze scene were cordoned off to traffic while firefighters continued to fight the fire with smoke still pluming from the roof.

Investigators will move in to comb through the charred remains of the building as soon as it is safe for them to operate.

A mother-of-one, 29, who lives in the block next to the building who has been evacuated said: “It was horrifying. I have a child we had no time we just had to run, the smoke was thick, even in the street.

“We are staying at a friend’s house. I’m just praying that the smoke damage in our flat is not too serious. Also seeing the way the fire took hold I just hope none of the people are badly injured.”

A 102-year-old woman was among the residents evacuated from the area and was moved to a nearby hotel, Kensington and Chelsea deputy leader Kim Taylor-Smith told the Standard.

The councillor, who has been helping with the evacuation, said a nearby hostel was also evacuated.

Students as well as people who appeared to be tourists were moved away from the scene of the fire.

London Fire Brigade Station Commander Steve Collins said: "The fire spread from the ground floor to the top floor and roof of the property.

“Crews worked extremely hard to contain it and prevent the blaze spreading to adjacent buildings. We remain at the scene dampening down hotspots."

Ben King, borough commander for Kensington and Chelsea, explained around 100 people have been able to return to properties near where the fire happened.

He added: "Road closures remain in place and emergency services are likely to remain at the scene throughout the day so we would ask people to continue to avoid the area."

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said council staff were providing assistance where residents were sheltered.

Councillor Taylor-Smith said in a statement: “We are on the ground and providing support and accommodation to residents impacted.

“I also want to thank the emergency services for the incredible job they have done in very challenging conditions, and to staff at the council who have sprung into action in the middle of the night.”

The blaze shot up one building then spread to the adjacent block, witnesses said.

There was still fire in the roof at 9am.

Nunzio Levante, 30, said: “The fire seemed to be coming from the basement and then spread up the building and across to the roof of the next one. I woke up and looked out of my window and could see firemen opposite helping people out.

“The emergency workers were very professional people were scared and coughing from the smoke.”

The cause of the fire is not yet known.