London Fire: Twelve Dead In Grenfell Tower Blaze

LONDON — At least 12 people were killed, more than 70 injured and many others missing on Wednesday as a fire ripped through a high-rise apartment building in west London where residents had long warned of the potential risk of a catastrophic blaze.

Witnesses reported people jumping from parts of the 24-story building after being trapped by the advancing flames. A thick plume of smoke could be seen for miles around.

Children banged on closed windows as they were enveloped by the dark smoke. A woman dropped her baby from at least a dozen stories up, desperately hoping someone would catch the infant in the street below.

Hundreds of other residents, many of whom were asleep when the blaze broke out shortly before 1 a.m., were forced to flee down dark and smoky stairwells.

Grenfell Tower, which is publicly subsidized housing that prioritizes low-income and disabled residents of one of London’s poshest neighborhoods, was engulfed within minutes, witnesses said.

“It was like a horror movie. Smoke was coming from everywhere,” said building resident Adeeb, who hobbled down nine flights of stairs on crutches with his wife and three daughters.

Adeeb, who declined to give his last name, said there had been no alarms and that he learned of the fire only when his daughter woke him.

“She said, ‘I can see fire,’ and I opened the door and could see smoke,” added Adeeb, who is originally from Syria but has lived in Britain for 16 years. One of his daughters was hospitalized.

The fire raised immediate questions about how a recently renovated high-rise apartment building in the center of one of the world’s wealthiest cities could so quickly become a 24-story inferno. Residents had complained in recent months that the management company was flouting fire safety rules, including by providing inadequate escape routes.

In addition to the allegedly faulty alarm system, there apparently was no central sprinkler system in the building, according to residents who spoke to London’s Evening Standard newspaper. It remained unclear whether the building lacked sprinklers entirely, or whether they failed.

Officials said the cause of the fire was still being investigated. Terrorism was not suspected.

A witness interviewed by the BBC said his fourth-floor neighbor had awakened him around 1 a.m. to tell him that his “fridge had exploded.” Another witness told the broadcaster that the concrete building’s exterior cladding, which was just added last year, had “burned like paper” as the fire leapt from one floor to the next.

“It was like a horror movie. Smoke was coming from everywhere,” said building resident Adeeb, who hobbled down nine flights of stairs on crutches with his wife and three daughters.

Adeeb, who declined to give his last name, said there had been no alarms and that he learned of the fire only when his daughter woke him.

“She said, ‘I can see fire,’ and I opened the door and could see smoke,” added Adeeb, who is originally from Syria but has lived in Britain for 16 years. One of his daughters was hospitalized.

The fire raised immediate questions about how a recently renovated high-rise apartment building in the center of one of the world’s wealthiest cities could so quickly become a 24-story inferno. Residents had complained in recent months that the management company was flouting fire safety rules, including by providing inadequate escape routes.

In addition to the allegedly faulty alarm system, there apparently was no central sprinkler system in the building, according to residents who spoke to London’s Evening Standard newspaper. It remained unclear whether the building lacked sprinklers entirely, or whether they failed.

Officials said the cause of the fire was still being investigated. Terrorism was not suspected.

A witness interviewed by the BBC said his fourth-floor neighbor had awakened him around 1 a.m. to tell him that his “fridge had exploded.” Another witness told the broadcaster that the concrete building’s exterior cladding, which was just added last year, had “burned like paper” as the fire leapt from one floor to the next.

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