London tower fire: Twelve people confirmed dead, toll may rise

Police say death toll likely to rise in the fire that engulfed 24-storey housing block in central London and injured 74; cause of blaze remains unknown

Flames and smoke coming from the block of flats after the fire broke out. PICS/AFP
Flames and smoke coming from the block of flats after the fire broke out. PICS/AFP

A huge blaze yesterday engulfed a 24-storey residential tower block in west London housing over 100 families, killing at least 12 people and injuring 74 others, with police suspecting the death toll could rise further.

The fire at Grenfell Tower was reported at 01.16 local time. About 600 people were believed to have been inside the tower's 120 flats when the blaze ripped through the building. The Metropolitan Police, which previously had put the number of fatalities at six, now raised the death toll to 12.

A woman cries as she tries to locate a missing relative
A woman cries as she tries to locate a missing relative

Commander Stuart Cundy, of the Metropolitan Police earlier said the recovery operation would be complex "over a number of days."

He said it was likely to be some time before police could identify the victims, and it was too early to speculate on the cause of the fire. The fire is thought to have started because of a faulty refrigerator on the 3rd or 4th floor of the building soon after midnight and destroyed flat after flat. By noon, the building looked to be just smoking ruins but the fire again took hold, and cladding began to fall to the ground. Eyewitnesses described people trapped in the burning tower, in north Kensington, screaming for help and yelling for their children to be saved. The area around Grenfell Tower is home to a large number of Muslims. Many were awake at the time the fire broke out having their early morning meal before beginning the daily fast for Ramzan. The survivors gathered in a nearby a community centre where they were given water, clothes and blankets.

Two men hug within the security cordon near the tower
Two men hug within the security cordon near the tower

Baby thrown from 9th floor
One woman lost two of her six children when trying to escape the burning tower block while others tried to throw their children to safety, witnesses said. Bystanders and residents reported scenes of panic. A bystander, Samira Lamrani, said she saw a baby thrown from a ninth or 10th floor window, "A gentleman ran forward and managed to grab the baby." Another witness, Tamara, told the BBC she also saw people trying to throw their children to safety.

Residents had raised an alarm
Residents said they had warned repeatedly over fire safety in the block. London's mayor Sadiq Khan said questions needed to be answered over the safety of tower blocks after some residents said they had been advised they should stay in their flats in the event of a fire.

A local residents association had previously warned it was worried about the risk of a serious fire in the block.

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