Tragedy struck London again as a huge fire spread through a 24-story apartment building in the North Kensington area on Wednesday, killing at least 12 people and injuring at least 74 people. Firefighters were searching the site as of late Wednesday for survivors.
British media reported that roughly 600 people were inside Grenfell Tower’s 120 flats when the fire started in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Some residents are missing and said to be trapped in the upper floors.
Horrifying accounts of the fire emerged quickly on local media. The Telegraph reported witnesses making use of bed sheets to escape the building and a woman holding a baby out of the window. One resident told the Guardian that he saw someone throw two children out a window. Another resident reported that he saw three children being thrown from the 15th floor.
Residents of Grenfell Tower are said to have expressed concern over fire safety of the building. A blog post from the Grenfell Action Group, composed of residents, stated in November that “a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord,” the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.
The post referred an incident in 2013 when a fire was likely to occur in the building but was averted:
The Grenfell Action Group believe that the KCTMO narrowly averted a major fire disaster at Grenfell Tower in 2013 when residents experienced a period of terrifying power surges that were subsequently found to have been caused by faulty wiring. We believe that our attempts to highlight the seriousness of this event were covered up by the KCTMO with the help of the [Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea] Scrutiny Committee who refused to investigate the legitimate concerns of tenants and leaseholders.
The building, constructed in 1974, underwent an $11 million renovation in 2016 that was supposed to improve the fire safety system, according to Kensington’s Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee.
The developer behind the renovation, Rydon group, on Wednesday said it had “met all required building control, fire regulation, and health and safety standards.”
The chief executive of KCTMO, Robert Black, told media that the company was investigating any causes that led to Wednesday’s fire: “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.”
The London Mayor Sadiq Khan visited the site with fire officials and assured Londoners that the cause of fire will be brought to light.
“There will be a great many questions over the coming days as to the cause of this tragedy and I want to reassure Londoners that we will get all the answers,” said Khan on Wednesday.