Latest updates are at the end of this post
Multiple people killed and at least 50 transported to nearby hospitals after a large fire broke out in a high-rise apartment building in West London early on Wednesday, June 14.
London’s Metropolitan Police Service were called to the scene at 1:16 a.m. local time (0016 GMT) after reports of a fire at the Grenfell Towers building in North Kensington.
Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said on Monday, June 19 that 79 people are confirmed dead and identified or remain missing and are presumed dead. He said some victims may never be positively identified.
The death toll may rise as people remain missing after the fire.
“This is an unprecedented incident. In my 29 years of being a firefighter I have never ever seen anything of this scale. Firefighters are working very hard at the moment.
This is a major fire that effected all floors of this 24 storey building from the second floor upwards. I have over 200 of my firefighters and officers attending this incident, with 40 fire engines and a range of specialist vehicles, including 14 fire rescue units.
We declared this a major incident very early this morning … the first call coming in at 12.54. Our first fire engines were on the scene in under six minutes … I am very sad to confirm that there have been a number of fatalities.
I cannot confirm the number at this time due to the size and complexity of this building. It would clearly be wrong for me to speculate further.”
London fire commissioner Dany Cotton
London Ambulance Service confirmed that 50 patients had been taken to five London hospitals. Police said they “a number of people” were treated for a range of injuries, including smoke inhalation.
— London Fire Brigade (@LondonFire) June 14, 2017
More than 20 ambulance crews were dispatched along with a hazardous response team and air and ambulance services. London Fire Brigade said over 200 firefighters and 40 engines were called to the scene.
London Fire Brigade commissioner Dany Cotton said the investigation will likely take weeks.
Around 600 people are believed to have lived in the building, which has 120 flats on 20 floors, according to a 2012 planning application filed with the borough.
Multiple eyewitness reports, including reporters on the scene, suggested people were trapped inside the building. Witnesses told BBC they saw residents at the tower windows with mobile phones and torches, and some were holding children.
London Fire Brigade said it rescued 65 people from the building.
Major incident declared at Grenfell Tower in Kensington. 40 fire engines & 200 firefighters at the scene – follow @LondonFire for updates.
— Mayor of London (@MayorofLondon) June 14, 2017
London fire officials said the fire broke out on the second floor and spread to the top of the 24-storey tower.
The Metro newspaper reported that Grenfell Tower was refurbished last year, and one resident told LBC radio “the real issue” was new exterior cladding had caught fire.
Prior to the refurbishment, a number of residents calling themselves the Grenfell Action Group wrote about concerns “that the new improvement works to Grenfell Tower have turned our building into a fire trap.”
In an August 2014 blog post, the group wrote to London Fire Brigade inspector Ben Dewis:
“There is only one entry and exit to the tower block itself and, in the event of a fire, the LFB could only gain access to the entrance to the building by climbing four flights of narrow stairs.
Residents of Grenfell Tower do not have any confidence that our building has been satisfactorily assessed to cope with the new improvement works and we are seeking a meeting with the Chief Fire Officer from Kensington Fire Station so that these concerns can be addressed.”
Grenfell Action Group blog post
Rydon, the construction firm that did the refurbishment, said on Wednesday that it met all building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards:
“We are shocked to hear of the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower and our immediate thoughts are with those that have been affected by the incident, their families, relatives and friends.
Rydon completed a refurbishment of the building in the summer of 2016 for KCTMO (Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation) on behalf of the Council, which met all required building control, fire regulation and health & safety standards. We will cooperate with the relevant authorities and emergency services and fully support their enquiries into the causes of this fire at the appropriate time.”
Police have launched a criminal investigation, and Cundy said on June 19 that they will consider “all criminal offenses that may have been committed by any individual.”