At about 1 am on Wednesday morning, a high rise apartment building in West London caught fire, the New York Times reports. 74 people have been taken to the hospital and six people are confirmed dead, though officials say the number is expected to rise.
More than 250 fire fighters have been working to extinguish the blaze at Grenfell Tower, and search for residents who might still be stranded. Mayor Sadiq Khan confirmed that there are still missing people, and asked anyone who had left the scene to report themselves to help account for everyone. Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, Danny Cotton told reporters, “In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never, ever seen anything of this scale.”
The Independent reports about the terrifying scene, in which people were attempting to escape and aid one another in the smoky hallways. One man was reportedly seen jumping from his window. A mother threw her baby to a man below to save them. Many are still waiting for news about friends, family, and neighbors.
“It’s unbelievable,” a witness told the BBC. “I saw people jumping out of windows. I heard their screams.”
While the cause of the fire has not been identified, according to the NYT, warnings of Grenfell being a potential fire hazard were reported as far back as November, following an expensive renovation in May 2016:
Grenfell Action Group warned that Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization, the entity hired by the borough to manage the property, had allowed the risk of “a serious fire.”
In a blog post, the group wrote that the “the KCTMO narrowly averted a major fire disaster at Grenfell Tower in 2013 when residents experienced a period of terrifying power surges that were subsequently found to have been caused by faulty wiring.” It asserted that “our attempts to highlight the seriousness of this event were covered up by the KCTMO,” with help from the borough’s security committee, “who refused to investigate the legitimate concerns of tenants and leaseholders.”
The management organization’s chief executive, Robert Black, did not address these accusations in his statement, though he said the organization would be providing aid to building residents. The construction company that carried out the renovation said in their statement that the building “met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards.”