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London building blaze leaves at least 6 dead

Priya sundarajan | | Updated on: Jun 14, 2017
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Questions being raised over ‘poor safety standards’

At least six people have died and 64 injured, 20 critically, following a devastating fire at Grenfell Tower, a 24-story residential block in west London, home to 120 apartments, close to Notting Hill.

Smoke continued to billow out of the tower, left a dark shell of itself by Wednesday afternoon, following the fire that took hold dramatically and swiftly raged through the building in the early hours of the morning, despite a swift response from London’s fire services.

Police and fire services said they expected the death toll to rise following the complex recovery operation that would take place in coming days

The fire brigade responded to multiple reports of the fire at 00.54 am local time and were on the scene within six minutes, with over 250 fire fighters tackling the blaze, but the fire firmly took hold of the building from its first floor to the top, leaving residents trapped inside.

There were horrific eye witness accounts from the scene, and video footage captured people still trapped in the building at the windows pleading to be rescued, with some resorting to throwing young family members out of the window in an attempt to rescue them.

They urged those who had lived at the block to make themselves known at a reception centre that had been set up to deal with the tragedy, to help police account for the blocks residents.

While the fire brigade has said it’s too early to assess the cause of the fire that has led to a number of casualties, attention has begun to focus on the state of the building, which had recently been refurbished, and in particular to a new exterior cladding system to improve insulation and its appearance.

One resident who had escaped told Channel 4 news that looking out from the window the cladding had appeared to be on fire.

Rydon, the company responsible for the refurbishment, said its work had met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards. Attention has also focused on the fire safety advice provided to residents of the tower block in signs in the building, recommending that they stay in their apartments in the wake of a fire outside the apartment.

The apartment block lies within the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which like most central boroughs is one of sharp contrasts where affluence and poverty exist side by side. It stands on the Lancaster West Estate, home to a largely working class, multi cultural community. It was built in 1974 and is managed by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation on behalf of the Council.

Once the fire is put out and and Britain begins to count the dreadful human cost of the tragedy, questions will arise about how such a fire started, and how it spread so quickly, in 21st century Britain.

Published on January 12, 2018

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