Wednesday 16 August 2017

What we know so far about the Grenfell Tower blaze

There have been a number of deaths at the west London block.

By Taylor Heyman

A massive blaze has engulfed a block of flats in west London with witnesses reporting people being trapped in their homes.

What happened?

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Firefighters were called to Grenfell Tower in north Kensington, west London, just before 1am on Wednesday as fire ripped through a 24-storey block of flats.

Residents who escaped the building, which contained 120 flats, spoke of others trapped and screaming for help, with some holding children from windows and others jumping from upper floors.

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 cause of the blaze is not yet known.

How many people were caught up in it?

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There have been a “number of fatalities” in the block, London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton told reporters. Thirty others have been taken to five hospitals.

The leader of Kensington and Chelsea Borough council Nick Paget-Brown said “several hundred” people would have been in the block when the fire broke out.

Nicky Paramasivan, who was in his seventh floor flat with his partner and child, said the advice issued to residents in the event of a fire was to stay in their flats.

“If we’d listened to them and stayed in the flat we’d have perished,” he told the BBC.

He said that after they fled, explosions from the flats had blue flames, suggesting gas.

How did firefighters respond?

More than 200 firefighters from north Kensington, Kensington, Hammersmith and Paddington and surrounding stations were at the scene with the blaze burning from the second to the top floor.

Were there warnings something like this could happen?

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A blog post from Grenfell Action Group in November said “only a catastrophic event” would expose issues residents had with the building’s safety.

The group said there was only one entry and exit to Grenfell Tower during improvement works at the block in Latimer Road and it had issues with evacuation procedures.

Following the fire, the group posted: “All our warnings fell on deaf ears and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time.”

The group claimed access to the building was “severely restricted” for emergency services and other vehicles and that residents were advised to stay in their flats in case of fire.

The building was constructed in 1974, according to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It was upgraded at a cost of £8.6 million with work finishing in May last year.

Is there anything people can do to help?

As many of the residents left the block in their nightwear, nearby St Clements Church is appealing for spare clothes, toiletries and toys.

A casualty bureau has been set up for anyone concerned about friends and family on 0800 0961 233.

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