Fire engulfs London tower block, at least six dead, more than 50 injured

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Smoke billows from a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

*death toll likely to rise

Fire engulfed a 24-storey housing block in central London in the early hours on Wednesday, killing at least six people and injuring at least 50 others in an inferno that trapped residents as they slept.

Flames raced through the high-rise Grenfell Tower block of apartments in the north Kensington area after taking hold around 1 a.m. and witnesses reported many residents desperately calling for help from windows of upper floors.

More than 200 firefighters, backed up by 40 fire engines, fought for hours to try to bring the blaze, one of the biggest seen in central London in recent years, under control.

In late morning, London police said six people had been killed and the death toll was likely to rise.

Fire-fighting crews still had to reach the top four floors of the building where several hundred people live in 130 apartments.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

The block had recently undergone an 8.7 million pound refurbishment of the exterior, which included new external cladding, replacement windows and curtain wall facades.

Plumes of black smoke billowed high into the air over the British capital for hours after the blaze broke out. Residents rushed to escape through smoke-filled corridors after being woken up by the smell of burning.

London Fire Brigade said the fire engulfed all floors from the second to the top of the 24-storey block. There were reports that some residents threw themselves out of windows to escape the flames.

“In my 29 years of being a fire fighter, I have never ever seen anything of this scale,” London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton told reporters.

 

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