At least six people have been killed with more than 60 others rushed to hospital after a huge blaze engulfed a 24-storey block of flats in west London. Forty fire engines and around 200 firefighters have been battling to rescue residents from the inferno at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington since shortly before 1:00 GMT on 14 June. The building is still on fire with a number of people remaining unaccounted for.
The Metropolitan Police have stated they expect the number of fatalities to rise further. Commander Stuart Cundy, from the Metropolitan Police, said: "Our thoughts are with everyone involved in this truly shocking fire at Grenfell Tower".
Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton called the blaze in the Latimer Road area near Notting Hill an "unprecedented incident" and said she had never seen anything on this scale in her 29-year career. Cotton added that some firefighters have sustained minor injuries fighting the fire.
In harrowing footage published online, residents trapped inside the tower block, which contains 130 apartments, can be seen screaming for help and waving from their windows as the deadly blaze spread across the building. Firefighters can be seen to struggle to contain the inferno with thick smoke seen billowing from the burning structure and drifting across the London skyline.
Reports have emerged of people leaping from the tower to escape the fire and using the lights on their phones to signal for help.
A baby was caught by a member of the public after being dropped from Grenfell Tower as it was engulfed with flames, a witness said. Samira Lamrani said she saw a woman try to save a baby by dropping it from a window "on the ninth or 10th floor" to waiting members of the public below.
"The baby was wrapped in some sort of bedsheet blanket," she said: "And she threw the baby and as the baby came down from approximately the ninth of 10th floor, a member of the public, a gentleman, ran foward and miraculously grabbed the baby," Lamrani added.
One video shows terrified residents knotting together makeshift ropes from bed sheets and blankets to hang from their windows in order to try and escape the burning tower.
An eyewitness can be heard saying in the footage: "Can you see that rope that goes all the way to that building. Man put a rope of all his handkerchiefs and towels". The eyewitness also shouts "watch out" as large chunks of fiery debris begin to cascade from the upper floors of the tower.
People living nearby soon came out in large numbers to see the blaze and record footage of the fire. This video filmed by local resident Catherine Veliz shows dozens of onlookers watching the blaze from nearby St Clements Church in Treadgold Street. The church has now been turned turned into an evacuation centre to support those who have managed to escape the blaze.
Reverend Michael O'Donoghue, the area Dean for Kensington, said that The Grenfell Tower inferno reminded him of "that image of 9/11 where you had the blue sky and the block on fire". Speaking to IBTimes UK from St Clements Church, he described the effort to help those who had fled the burning building.
"They've been [the church members] offering people somewhere to come out of the chaos, they've been offering a shoulder to cry on and someone to chat with, pray with. They've been offering the compassion of Christ with food and drink and all sorts of things," he said.
The huge plumes of smoke thrown up by the blaze were visible for miles around. A video shot by Jamie Kirkwood from aboard a plane flying over London shows a large trail of smoke emanating from the burning tower.
In another video, eyewitnesses have criticised the response from the London Fire Brigade. "It's very chaotic, it felt like it wasn't well organised," one witness stated. "You could see just a few fire engines, not that many officers, a lot of people screaming," he added.
Another local resident added: "What upset me, the fire brigade, they were late and there was not enough engines. They were asking people to stay inside and I tried to say 'why?'".
The fire is believed to have started on the third or fourth floor soon after midnight, before quickly spreading up the building. After sending a structural engineer to assess the building, the London Fire Brigade have said that the tower is not in danger of collapsing.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said questions need to be answered about tower blocks around the city following a devastating fire. Khan had been called to respond after reports that people had been advised in advance to remain in their flats in the event of fire. The Mayor said in a statement: "There will be a great many questions over the coming days as to the cause of this tragedy and I want to reassure Londoners that we will get all the answers".