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  1. ITV Report

Grenfell Tower fire: At least 12 dead after inferno engulfs London tower block with death toll set to rise

At least 12 people have been killed after a huge fire engulfed and destroyed a large block of London flats - and the death toll is expected to rise.

The Metropolitan Police said people may still be missing inside Grenfell Tower after the night-time inferno ripped through more than half of the 24-storey building.

A "complex and lengthy" recovery operation remains ongoing at the 1970s tower near White City in west London, which was recently refurbished at a cost of £8.7 million.

More than 70 people have been treated across six hospitals, 18 of whom are in critical care.

The council also confirmed emergency accommodation has been provided to 44 households affected by the fire, with families with young children, elderly residents and those who are vulnerable given "immediate priority".

But the London Fire Brigade (LFB) said it had "absolutely no idea" how many individuals remain unaccounted for.

Smoke billows from the fire that engulfed the 24-storey tower. Credit: PA

Forty fire trucks supported by 250 firefighters responded to the blaze, which began shortly before 1am.

London Fire Brigade said the blaze was "unprecedented in terms of scale, speed and spread" as crews continued to tackle it on Wednesday evening.

  • Hope fades for those trapped inside the inferno
A firefighter investigates a floor after hundreds tackled the blaze. Credit: PA

Director of safety and assurance Steve Apter said firefighters "have been able to search almost all the building now" and said his crews "intend to be here through the night".

However Met commander Stuart Cundy said: "Whilst we may have accessed every floor that is not the same as a full search of the whole building.

"While we currently sadly have 12 fatalities, I do believe that figure will rise and sadly I don't anticipate that there will be further survivors."

Witnesses saw people trapped inside their homes, screaming for help and jumping from windows, while desperate women threw their children to safety.

One witness saw a resident throw a baby from "the ninth or 10th floor" into the arms of a member of the public below.

  • What is the government's response?

Prime Minister Theresa May said a "proper investigation" will be held into the cause of the "terrible" and "tragic" fire.

Mrs May said it was "impossible to comprehend the horror" that residents had endured.

The prime minister, who held a cross-Government meeting to coordinate a response, hailed the efforts of the emergency services in their "harrowing work" and praised the community response to the blaze.

Policing and Fire Minister Nick Hurd earlier confirmed emergency checks are to be carried out on tower blocks going through similar refurbishment.

Asked if the government had failed to act on prior warnings over safety, Mrs May said it would be up to the investigation to find out.

"If there are any lessons to be learned they will be, and action will be taken," she said.

  • Is the cause of the fire known?

The cause of the blaze is currently unknown, though reports suggested a "faulty fridge" may have sparked the blaze.

London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton said crews were likely to remain at the scene for at least 24 hours and said firefighters had rescued a "large number" of people from the building.

She confirmed crews had only managed to reach the 19th or 20th floors of the 24-storey block, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan said questions need to be answered over why they couldn't reach the top.

  • Witnesses describe distressing scenes
Local tower block resident Georgina was distraught as she watched from her balcony. Credit: PA

Video footage showed flames from near the bottom to the top of the building.

Actor and writer Tim Downie, a nearby resident, described the block as looking close to collapse.

Local resident, Joanna O'Connor, said she awoke to screams and sirens.

"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," she said.

"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."

A resident, circled, looks out from a window as smoke pours from the fire above. Credit: PA

Local Omar Salha described hearing "children screaming for help" on Twitter.

Eyewitness Tia Abrhams told Good Morning Britain: "It was horrible. There were people banging on their windows, screaming for help.

"There was even two young children literally staring down towards everyone at the bottom.

"You could hear people screaming in pain from the fire."

Ahmed Chellat said he had family inside the building, but did not know whether they were trapped inside.

Mr Chellat said he spoke to his brother-in-law, who has a wife and three children living on the 21st floor, who were told to remain inside the block by emergency services - but they have not been heard from since.

Actor Mr Downie 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. I just hope they have got everyone out."

Aerial footage showed the extent of the fire, with huge flames and plumes of smoke rising into the air.

One resident said he only discovered the fire when he heard people screaming from outside his window.

And he claimed the fire alarm was barely audible, comparing it to the noise a lift door makes.

Another Grenfell resident told ITV News that no fire alarm had gone off on the 16th floor.

Kensington and Chelsea Borough council leader Nick Paget-Brown said "several hundred" people would have been in the block when the fire broke out.

  • Safety concerns raised previously
Firefighters tackled the blaze throughout the night. Credit: SWNS

Concerns about fire safety at Grenfell Tower had reportedly been raised months ahead of the blaze.

Mr Chellat claimed residents had long warned of a fire risk at the block.

"We have raised concern of the safety for quite some time," he told GMB.

"I'm not an expert, but I think it's the plastic they put on the outside [that] really triggered the fire badly."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he feared spending cuts may have compromised the fire safety response and confirmed he would seek answers from Thursday once all efforts were made to save lives.

He referred to comments from Labour MP Harriet Harman, who he quoted as saying: "If you cut local authority expenditure then the price is paid somewhere."

Ms Harman drew links between the fire and warnings that were raised as a result of a deadly blaze in her constituency of Camberwell and Peckham in 2009.

Policing and Fire Minister Nick Hurd said the government wanted to provide reassurance to people living in similar blocks as soon as possible.

"We have discussed with the Department for Communities and Local Government, local authorities and the fire service a process whereby we seek to identify towers that might have a similar process of refurbishment, run a system of checks so that we can, as quickly as possible, give reassurance to people," he said.

  • Tower block refurbished in 2016
The whole tower block appears to have been gutted. Credit: SWNS

The 1970s tower block was recently refurbished for some £8.7 million, with work completed in May 2016.

Its exterior was "modernised" with cladding and replacement windows, while additional homes were added using vacant space in the building.

  • What have the firms involved in the 2016 refurbishment said?

Construction firm Rydon, which supplied the materials for the refurbishment, said it was "shocked" to hear about the "devastating fire".

In a statement, the company said it had met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards.

Hundreds of firefighters were sent to the scene. Credit: SWNS

Harley Facades Limited completed the Grenfell Tower refurbishment work, which included installing exterior cladding.

The firm's managing director Ray Bailey said it would "fully support and cooperate" with the investigations into this "incredibly tragic incident".

"At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower," Mr Bailey added.

  • What is the emergency number to call for those concerned?

The Met has set up a casualty bureau for anyone concerned about friends and family, which people can contact on 0800 0961 233.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan urged all others to follow the London Fire Brigade's Twitter feed for updates.

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