Hundreds of residents in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower have been evacuated from their flats in the burning building, and at least 50 people have been taken to five hospitals in the capital for treatment.
Witnesses described hearing screams, watching people throw themselves out of the high-rise block and a woman holding a baby out of a window.
Others told of seeing people shouting and waving from the windows for help, and seeing people shining torches from within as the inferno erupted in the dead of night.
Footage on social media showed the building engulfed in fire, with huge flames stretching over a number of floors.
The fire brigade said the fire had spread throughout the entire building, now covered in plumes of smoke with visible pockets of fire within the charred structure.
Mini explosions could be heard as the blaze shattered windows in the tower, while debris and ash fell to the ground.
London Fire Brigade commissioner Dany Cotton confirmed there had been “a number of fatalities”.
“I cannot confirm the number at this time due to the size and complexity of this building,” she said.
She described it as an “unprecedented incident”, something she had not seen in her 29 years of service.
The cause of the blaze is not yet known, but is being investigated, she added.
Reporting from the scene in the immediate aftermath of the blaze, Sky News producer Dan Cairns said residents had been told that if they received calls for help from people inside, to tell them they needed to try and “self-evacuate”.
He said they had been told “to put a cloth over their mouths and try to get out by themselves”.
Actor and writer Tim Downie, who lives around 600 metres from the scene, said he feared the block could collapse.
He said: “It’s horrendous. The whole building is engulfed in flames. It’s gone. It’s just a matter of time before this building collapses. It’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen.
“People have been bringing water, clothes, anything they’ve got to help, out to the cordon. I have seen people coming out in their bedclothes – it’s just very distressing.”
London Ambulance said it had sent a “number of resources” to the scene, including its Hazardous Area Response Team, after the fire was first reported at 12.54am.
London mayor Sadiq Khan said questions needed to be answered in relation to the blaze.
Joanna O’Connor, a local resident, told Sky News: “At about 2am I was woken up by screaming, sirens and helicopters. We came outside and were confronted with the building that was completely engulfed in flames.
“It was a real shock and there were hundreds of people lining the streets, we could still hear screaming from the building and people were milling around in shock, crying.
“One of our neighbours, her sister, husband and children were in the building, it was their neighbours’ flat that caught fire. So it’s very close to us, we’ve got neighbours whose families are in that building.
Another witness described seeing a woman who was “hysterical”. “She said her friend jumped. The whole of his window was on fire,” she added.
Celeste Thomas lives across the road from the tower and said residents and families were “trying to find each other” following the evacuation.
She said: “Police have moved everyone back out of direct sight but I can hear cracking and debris falling.”
The tower block – which was refurbished internally and externally last year – is situated on the Lancaster West Estate, between Latimer Road Underground station and Westfield’s White City shopping centre.
Transport for London said there was no service between Hammersmith and Edgware Road on the Circle and Hammersmith and City lines, while the police said the A40 was closed in both directions, owing to the fire.
Nick Paget-Brown, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, said several hundred people will have been in the tower when the fire broke out.
He said emergency centres have been set up for evacuated residents, and that the council is “providing as much support as we can”.
“Emergency services have set up a big cordon around the area, it’s quite hard to get accurate information but the council will be doing all it can.”
Grenfell Action Group said its warnings about safety fell on “deaf ears”.
In its blog post dated from November 2016, the group warned “only a catastrophic event” would expose the issues residents had with the building – including its one entry and exit and concerns about evacuation procedures.
Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick, chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group, said the Government has resisted calls to install sprinkler systems in high-rise blocks in the wake of the 2009 Lakanal House tragedy.
Mr Fitzpatrick, who was a firefighter for 20 years, added: “There’s obviously a huge number of questions going to have to be asked about what happened.
“It’s a bit early to start pointing fingers, I would have thought.”
:: Anyone concerned for loved ones can call an emergency hotline on 0800 0961 233.
Article source: news.sky.com