Health Care

Death toll rises to 12 in London apartment building inferno

Desperately trying to avoid the flames, residents threw one baby and other small children from high windows to people down on the sidewalk, witnesses said.

The tower, which contained 120 flats, was home to 400-550 people, many of whom have now been left temporarily homeless due to the fire.

Stuart Cundy said that "we believe this number will sadly increase".

"This is going to be a long and complex recovery operation and I do anticipate that the number of fatalities will sadly increase beyond those 12".

The fire was "unprecedented", said Dany Cotton, London fire commissioner: "In my 29 years with London Fire Brigade I have never seen a fire of this nature".

The horrific scene that unfolded at Grenfell Tower in West London from early on Wednesday morning has raised questions about how such a fire could take hold of a building so quickly in 21st century Britain. The organization's July 2014 newsletter said Grenfell "was designed according to rigorous fire safety standards". A fire action sign that hung on the wall in the building advised residents to leave at once if there is a fire in their apartment or their side of the building. When she got downstairs there were only four of them with her. It said the causes of the fire would be fully investigated.

Eddie, a 55-year-old resident from the Grenfell Action Group, told AFP he too had been complaining for years in particular about work at the base of the building which he said blocked access for fire trucks.

Built in the 1970s, the housing block was recently upgraded at a cost of 10 million pounds ($12.8 million), with work finishing in May 2016, according to the local council.

"There was bits of building falling off all around me, I scalded my shin on a hot piece of metal that had fallen off the building", said Jodie Martin, who lives close to the building and sought to save people from the fire.

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"We can't have a situation where people's safety is put at risk because of bad advice being given or if it is the case, as has been alleged, of tower blocks not being properly serviced or maintained", he said.

Prime Minister Theresa May was said to be "deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life" and newly appointed police and fire minister Nick Hurd will chair a meeting of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat to co-ordinate the response.

More than 20 ambulance crews were at the scene.

Referring to the multiple complaints by residents, he said: "If this happened somewhere near Knightsbridge that would have been resolved".

"As I was going down the stairs, there were firefighters, truly awesome firefighters that were actually going upstairs, to the fire, trying to get as many people out the building as possible", he told the BBC.

Witnesses said they heard screaming from the upper floors as the flames raced up the tower.

People trapped by the advancing flames and thick smoke banged on windows and screamed for help, witnesses and survivors said. But they were instead alerted to the blaze by fellow residents, some of whom may have been Muslim people who were awake early in the morning because of Ramzan and were among the first to notice the fire.

The cause of the fire, which broke out just before 1 a.m. (0000 GMT), was not known, the Fire Brigade said.

Many more of the hundreds of residents in the block on the Lancaster West estate are as yet unaccounted for and police said the whole building has not yet been searched. Mayor Sadiq Khan said many questions must be answered about safety for the scores of other apartment blocks around the British capital.



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