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Horror blaze at London tower block

(Pic: PA)
(Pic: PA)

A massive blaze has engulfed a block of flats in west London leaving a number of people dead.

More than 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the fire at the 27-storey Grenfell Tower which was reported just after 1.15am on Wednesday.

Speaking shortly before am on Tuesday morning London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said the fire has caused a number of fatalities but was not able to confirm how many lives had been lost at this stage.

It is believed the commissioner said that the fire began on the second floor but she said the cause is not yet known.

She said the fire was 'unprecedented' and said crews have been working tirelessly at the scene.

Pictures from the scene in north Kensington showed flames engulfing the block and the plume of smoke visible across the capital, as 30 people have been taken to five hospitals following a massive blaze at a block of flats in west London, London Ambulance Service said.

Actor and writer Tim Downie, who lives around 600 metres from the scene in Latimer Road, told the Press Association 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."

Jody Martin said he got to the scene just as the first fire engine was arriving at Grenfell Tower, in Latimer Road.

He told the BBC: "I grabbed an axe from the fire truck, it looked like there was a bit of confusion about what to do.

"I ran around the building looking for a fire escape and couldn't see any noticeable fire escapes around the building. A lot of debris falling down.

"I eventually gained entry onto the second floor, and once I got to the corridor I realised there was so much smoke there."

He added that given the thickness of the smoke, he would be surprised if anyone could have left the building without assistance.

"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'," he said.

Fire crews from north Kensington, Kensington, Hammersmith and Paddington and surrounding stations were at the scene with the fire burning from the second to the top floor.

T he cause of the fire is not known at this stage, London Fire Brigade said.

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, 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."

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 Ambulance said it had sent a " number of resources" to the scene, including its Hazardous Area Response Team.

London mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted: "Major incident declared at Grenfell Tower in Kensington" and urged people to follow London Fire Brigade on Twitter.

Stuart Crighton, London Ambulance Service assistant director of operations, said: "We have sent a number of resources to the scene including our hazardous area response team and over 20 ambulance crews.

"Our priority (is) to get people to safety and ensure they receive the medical help as quickly as possible.

"Our initial priority is to assess the level and nature of injuries and ensure those in the most need are treated first and taken to hospital."

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."

Transport for London said there was no service between Hammersmith and Edgware Road on the Circle and Hammersmith and City lines, while the police said the A40 was closed in both directions, owing to the fire.

London Fire Brigade said around 30 flats near the scene had been evacuated and a cordon was in place.

An acrid column of smoke could be seen rising from the building shortly before 7am.

The charred structure still had pockets of flame rising from several storeys as the desperate effort to bring the blaze under control continued.

Schoolboy Omar Kalam, 11, was standing anxiously at the emergency service cordon with father Walid, 44.

"My brother has friends and they live in there," he said. "I'm not sure if they are all right yet."

Parents from nearby Kensington Aldridge Academy, where Omar attends, had been told the school was closed, his father said.

The Metropolitan Police have set up a casualty bureau for anyone concerned about their friends and family on 0800 0961 233.