LONDON — Firefighters battled a massive fire and evacuated residents from a burning 27-floor high-rise apartment building in west London early Wednesday morning, sending at least 30 people to hospitals, emergency officials said.
London’s Metropolitan Police said a number of people were being treated for a range of injuries, but did not provide more specifics. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Twitter that a major incident had been declared.
Flames and smoke were still shooting from windows all the way up one side of the Grenfell Tower in North Kensington more than three hours after the blaze started.
Witnesses could hear screaming from the upper floors as the flames rose and one desperate resident could be seen waving a white cloth.
The London Fire Brigade said 45 fire engines and 200 firefighters were called to the scene and Assistant Fire Commissioner Dan Daly said it was a large and very serious incident.
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“Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus are working extremely hard in very difficult conditions to tackle this fire,” he said in a post on the brigade’s Facebook page.
“Fire is from 2nd to top floor of 27 storey building,” the fire service said on Twitter.
Frantic families at the scene attempted to call their loved ones stuck inside and were being directed by police to a nearby restaurant where some of the injured were being treated.
Firefighters at the scene said they had managed to evacuate residents up to the 11th floor.
Police were also clearing out nearby buildings because of fears about falling debris.
George Clarke, the presenter of “Amazing Spaces,” told Radio 5 Live he was covered in ash even though he was 100 meters from the scene.
He said he saw people waving flashlights from the top levels of the building and saw rescuers “doing an incredible job” trying to get people out.
Tim Downie, who lives not far away, told Britain’s Press Association that he feared the tower could collapse. He said he heard sirens, helicopters and shouting and then saw the building engulfed in flames.
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“It’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen. I just hope they have got everyone out,” he said. “People have been bringing water, clothes, anything they’ve got to help, out to the cordon.”
The apartment tower was built in 1974.
Local residents had warned a year ago about a potential fire risk caused by garbage being allowed to accumulate during improvement works.
“This matter is of particular concern as there is only one entry and exit to Grenfell Tower during the improvement works,” read a blog post by the Grenfell Action Group.
“The potential for a fire to break out in the communal area on the walkway does not bear thinking about as residents would be trapped in the building with no way out,” it said.