London fire: What we know so far about Grenfell Tower


View of Grenfell Tower in May (left) and during the fire on 14 June

Twelve people have died and 18 people are in critical care after a huge fire engulfed a west London tower block on Tuesday night.

There are still pockets of fire in the building and many people are unaccounted for.

What happened?

The fire was reported at the 24-storey block, Grenfell Tower, in north Kensington, 00:54 BST on Wednesday.

It is believed to have started on the fourth floor and spread quickly.

Forty fire engines and around 250 firefighters went to tackle the blaze.

The fire affected all floors of the building, from the second floor up,

Firefighters worked with the gas authority to isolate a ruptured gas main in the block.

Once it was completed, they were able to extinguish the fire with the help of a 40 metre aerial appliance.

The blaze was under control by 01:14 BST on Thursday.

Latest updates as fire rips through tower block

London tower block fire: In pictures

How many victims are there?

Twelve people have died, according to police, with the number expected to rise.

The London Ambulance Service says 78 people have been treated in six hospitals – St Mary’s, Chelsea and Westminster, Royal Free, St Thomas’, Charing Cross Hospital and King’s College Hospital.

Thirty-four patients remain in hospital of which 18 are in critical care.

Firefighters rescued 65 people from the building, according to the London Fire Bridge. Others made their own way out.

It is unknown how many people remain unaccounted for, with police saying that it is unlikely that more survivors will be found.

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said a “number” of firefighters had suffered minor injuries.

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Media captionFootage shows the extent of damage

Eyewitnesses said some people may have been trapped in the building, which contains about 120 flats.

Notting Dale ward councillor Judith Blakeman, who lives across the road from the block, said between 400 and 600 people live in the building.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said fire crews only managed to reach the 12th floor at the height of the fire.

The Met Police has set up an emergency number – 0800 0961 233 – for anyone concerned about friends or family.

People who live in the block, but have left, are being urged to make themselves known to the authorities so that they know they are safe.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council said it is helping anyone who needs emergency accommodation and is giving financial assistance to cover their immediate needs.

It has so far placed 44 households and housing officers will be “working through the night to provide assistance and support”.

“Our immediate priority is to accommodate the residents of Grenfell Tower, families with young children, the elderly and the vulnerable,” it said.

A rest centre has been set up at Westway Sports Centre, Crowthorne Road, W10 6RP for those unable to return to their homes in the surrounding area.

Baby ‘dropped to safety from tower fire’

What caused the fire?

It is not yet known what caused the fire.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said “a full investigation will need to be undertaken at the first possible opportunity”.

How are fires fought in high-rise blocks?

Where is the tower block?

Grenfell Tower is on Latimer Road, in west London.

It’s part of the Lancaster West Estate, a social housing complex of almost 1,000 homes, in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

The tower block is near Westfield shopping centre in White City and the A40 – a major route for traffic entering and leaving the west of London.

What do we know about Grenfell Tower?

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Smoke could be seen from miles away

Grenfell Tower was built in 1974 by Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council.

An £8.6m refurbishment – which was part of a wider transformation of the estate – was completed by Rydon Construction in May last year. Work included new exterior cladding, replacement windows and a communal heating system.

There was also extensive remodelling of the bottom four floors, creating nine additional homes, and improvements to communal facilities.

Plans for the development show how the building was modified and the single stairway.

Rydon said it was “shocked to hear of the devastating fire” adding that the work “met all required building control, fire regulation and health & safety standards”.

It later issued a new statement, removing the previous mention of the building meeting fire regulation standards, instead saying the project met “all required building regulations”.

The tower is managed by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) on behalf of the council.

Robert Black, chief executive of KCTMO, said: “The fire at Grenfell Tower is devastating and the reports of injury and losses of life absolutely heartbreaking.

“Along with my colleagues, I have been supporting residents since the early hours, working with the emergency services and the community.

“Currently we’re focusing on helping those residents, and London Fire Brigade is investigating the safety of the tower’s structure, but we will issue a further statement in due course.”

How safe was the tower block?

The local Grenfell Action Group had claimed, before and during the refurbishment, that the block constituted a fire risk and residents had warned that access to the site for emergency vehicles was “severely restricted”.

In February 2013 residents warned fire safety equipment, including fire extinguishers, had not been tested for 12 months.

KCTMO said it was aware that concerns had been raised historically by residents and they will form part of its investigations.

The tower block was given a medium fire risk rating – defined as a normal fire risk – in 2016 following completion of the refurbishment by the London Fire Brigade and Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council.

The council insists the block has been regularly inspected, but London Mayor Sadiq Khan said safety and maintenance issues would have to be looked at.

Concerns raised about Grenfell Tower ‘for years’

Geoff Wilkinson, a fire and building inspector, told the BBC that the Grenfell Tower block “didn’t perform in the way you’d expect a building to perform” once it caught fire as “you’d expect it to be contained to an individual apartment”.

“Something has gone dramatically wrong here,” he said.

The fire safety advice for Grenfell Tower residents was to “stay put” – unless the fire was affecting your own flat.

Michael Paramasivan, who lives on the seventh floor with his girlfriend and young daughter, said he ignored the advice.

“If we had stayed in that flat, we would’ve perished. My gut instinct told me just to get the girls out. I wrapped the little one up because of the smoke and I just got them out.”

David Sibert, Fire Brigade Union fire safety expert, said: “The principle that tower blocks are built on is that every flat is a fire-resisting box – every flat is completely surrounded by fire-resisting construction from the rest of the building.

“So you should be able to set fire to your own flat and leave it to completely burn out and it won’t affect anybody else in the building.”

Six questions for the investigation

What are eyewitnesses saying?

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Media captionLondon fire: Families threw children out of Grenfell Tower to safety

Eyewitnesses said they saw people trapped inside the burning building screaming for help, and shouting for their children to be saved.

Some said they saw lights – thought to be mobile phones or torches – flashing at the top of the block of flats, and trapped residents coming to their windows – some holding children.

Eyewitness Jody Martin said: “I watched one person falling out, I watched another woman holding her baby out the window… hearing screams.

“I was yelling at everyone to get down and they were saying ‘We can’t leave our apartments, the smoke is too bad on the corridors.'”

Tiago Etienne, 17, said: “I saw children being thrown out of the building from as high as about the 15th floor. They were young – aged probably between four and eight. I saw three thrown out.

“I think they were being thrown out for the firefighters or police to catch. But I couldn’t see from where I was who was at the bottom, and what they were catching them in.”

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Media captionResident: ‘It was like a horror movie’

Paul Munakr, who lives on the seventh floor, managed to escape. But he said he was alerted to the fire not by fire alarms but by people on the street below, shouting “don’t jump, don’t jump”.

Another resident, Zoe, who lives on the fourth floor, said she was woken by a neighbour banging on her door.

“The whole landing was thick with smoke. The smoke alarms weren’t going off but the way it spread so quickly from the fourth floor, all the way up to the 23rd floor was scary.”

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Media captionDavid Benjamin says he was woken by a neighbour banging on the door

The BBC’s Andy Moore, who was at the scene, described watching debris falling from the building, and hearing explosions and breaking glass.

“The police keep pushing back their cordons, pushing back members of the public for fear the building might collapse,” he said.

Grenfall Tower witnesses recall harrowing night

How people are helping

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PA

St Clement’s Church has been collecting clothes, food and water for those affected – many of whom had been forced to escape the building in their night clothes.

The Westway Sports and Fitness Centre is acting as a refuge centre and an emergency rest centre has been opened for those now homeless at the Harrow Centre, in Freston Road.

Local football clubs Queens Park Rangers (QPR) and Fulham have offered their help to those left homeless by the blaze.

The Rugby Portobello Trust has also opened its door to evacuees. Friends and families are asked not to go there.

A number of individuals have also reached out via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to offer accommodation and transport help.

Several crowdfunding pages have been set up for those affected by the blaze, with one raising more than £170,000.

This is what you can do to help

What other disruption is there?

The A40 – part of which is known as the Westway – has now fully reopened in both directions.

Bus services in the area have been affected with diversions on several routes.

People are being advised by police to stay away from the area, where roads are closed.

Falling debris has caused a number of flats in the area to be evacuated.

NHS England is asking Londoners to use its services “wisely” and, if they need medical attention, to “seek advice from NHS 111 in the first instance”.

St Mary’s Hospital and Charing Cross Hospital have asked people to only go to their A&E departments in an emergency.

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Source : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-40272168

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