LONDON: A 24-storey block of flats in west London was reduced to a smouldering shell after a blaze that began in the early hours of Wednesday killed at least 12 people, critically injured 20 and left hundreds of families traumatised.
There were harrowing scenes and accounts of children being dropped from windows in the hope that they would survive – at least one child was caught safely on the ground below. Fire fighters scoured the wrecked Grenfell Tower, built in 1974, through the day.
The blaze began around 1 am UK time and quickly spread, confirming apprehensions of local residents who had cautioned authorities months ago that the structure was a fire hazard.
The death toll was expected to increase, the police and London fire brigade said.
Gurdwaras, local residents and others across London offered shelter and help to survivors, some of whom escaped after slithering down the building with the help of bedsheets tied together amid screams and appeals for help.
The incident also had its impact on politics — no announcement was to be made about the ongoing coalition talks between the Democratic Unionist Party and the minority Theresa May government in view of the fire, DUP and Conservative Party sources said.
The fire brigade called it an “unprecedented situation”, while London mayor Sadiq Khan promised to ask questions why the usual strict fire safety measures in the country were not followed in the building. A review of all such buildings was also planned.
The Indian high commission set up an emergency helpline number, but there were no reports of any Indian citizens affected.
London fire brigade commissioner Dany Cotton said more than 200 firefighters and officers attended the incident, with 40 fire engines and a range of other specialist vehicles, including 14 fire rescue units, in attendance.
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