A huge fire at a West London high-rise apartment building claimed the lives of 12 people on early Wednesday morning, and sent at least 78 others to local hospitals. “In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never, ever seen anything of this scale,” said Dany Cotton, London Fire Brigade commissioner. London firefighters continued looking for survivors potentially trapped in the rubble into the afternoon. British Prime Minster Theresa May, coming off a disastrous snap election, extended her condolences and began meeting with government authorities to coordinate efforts on the national level to aid those affected by the tragedy.
The fire was first reported just before 1 AM, and the fire department said that the flames began on the second floor before making their way up. Adib Abbas was busy preparing a meal before the daily Ramadan fast when he heard shouting from other floors. Abbas said he saw people dangling out of the windows trying to escape the fire. Abdul Kadiri, a nearby resident, said that his friend, who lived on the 15th floor of the tower, was “crying thinking of all the children that… probably weren’t able to get out” after being extracted.
Grenfell Tower was constructed as a 24-story, 120-apartment building in 1974 and is owned by the local government, with day-to-day management handled by a third party. While a refurbishment was completed last year, an association of tenants had long complained about the building’s fire hazards. As recently as November, the Grenfell Action Group warned the local government that there was risk of “a serious fire”. In 2013, the group said that the biggest hazard was faulty wiring. Robert Black, CEO of the building’s management company, called the incident “heartbreaking” but did not talk about the previous claims in his statement.