Witnesses to a fatal fire at a London tower block have told of the horror of seeing terrified residents jumping from their units while on fire.
The fire service on Wednesday morning confirmed there had been a “number of fatalities” at the blaze in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower, and that 50 people had been taken to hospitals across the capital.
Hundreds of residents have been evacuated from the building since the fire first took hold just after 1.15am. Some residents are reportedly still trapped inside the tower as it teeters on the brink of collapse.
Multiple witnesses have described how they saw people “jumping out of windows” and using ropes made of bedsheets to escape the blaze.
A witness at the scene told HuffPost UK that she saw a woman desperately wrap a baby in a sheet and throw her from a window.
“There were screeches and there was someone gesturing that there was a lady at the window. As I looked up, a lady was frantically gesturing and screaming that she was about to throw her baby.
“She wrapped it in a sheet and threw the young baby out the window. And a member of the public. A young guy ran forward and miraculously grabbed it at the right moment. And the dhow of what I’m assuming is the mother went backwards and that’s the last we saw.”
Another witness, Samira Lamrani, said her daughter’s friends saw people “jumping out of the building with bin bags” in an attempt to slow their fall.
Another eyewitness, named only as Samira, told the BBC: “I saw people flying out of their balconies and windows. I saw a man who flew out of his window, I saw people screaming for help. We saw a lot of people jumping out that basically didn’t make it. It was from the eighth floor and up, and that kind of floor you wouldn’t really make it.”
Samira told the BBC that the fire escalated “really quickly” from “zero to 100”.
At first it was visible around the third floor, then “before you know it, the whole 23 floors of the building were all on fire and there were people screaming for help and throwing kids out”.
She said residents and bystanders “felt really helpless because no-one could get to them”.
“Everyone was really scared and they didn’t know what to do and it was really sad to see.
“These are all people that we grew up with and people that we see every day, like our neighbours.”
Samira told the broadcaster that the block was full of children, elderly people and the disabled and that there were still a lot of people unaccounted for.
Another eyewitness, Tamara, told the BBC: “You could hear people screaming ‘help me, help me’.
“There were people throwing their kids out [of windows], they were shouting ‘save my children’.”
Daniel, told BBC Radio London, that people on the upper floors has become trapped by the rising flames:
“People have been burned,” he said. “I have seen it with my own eyes. And I have seen people jump.”
Sky News reported that witnesses had described hearing screams, watching people fall out of the high-rise block and seeing a woman holding a baby out of a window.
Residents were also heard shouting from their flats, seen waving for help from their windows and shining torches and mobile phones from within the fire to alert fire fighters to their location.
MailOnline quoted one unidentified woman as saying that residents faced “either jumping out the window with their children and risk breaking bones or staying where you were and dying”.
London Fire Brigade commissioner Danny Cotton confirmed shortly before 8am that there had been a “number of fatalities” but did not specify how many.
She described the blaze as “unprecedented” and the worst she had come across during her 29-year career.
More than 200 firefighters and 40 engines are in attendance at the scene on the Lancaster West Estate, north Kensington.
Actor and writer Tim Downie, who lives around 600 metres from the scene in Latimer Road, told the Press Association he feared the block could collapse.
He 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.
“The first I knew was the noise of sirens, helicopters and shouting. I saw it engulfed in flames.
“People have been bringing water, clothes, anything they’ve got to help, out to the cordon.
“I have seen people coming out in their bedclothes - it’s just very distressing.”
Residents are continuing to be evacuated from the tower block, the Metropolitan Police said.
Fire crews from north Kensington, Kensington, Hammersmith and Paddington and surrounding stations were at the scene.
The cause of the fire is not known at this stage, London Fire Brigade said.
Fabio Bebber wrote on Twitter: “More screams for help as the fire spreads to another side of the building.
“We can see how quick the fire spreads via the external panels. It’s unbearable hearing someone screaming for their lives at #grenfelltower.”
George Clarke, who presents the Channel 4 TV show Amazing Spaces, told Radio 5 Live: “I was in bed and heard ‘beep, beep, beep’ and thought, ‘I’ll get up and run downstairs as quickly as I could’.
“I thought it might be a car alarm outside and saw the glow through the windows.
“I’m getting covered in ash, that’s how bad it is. I’m 100 metres away and I’m absolutely covered in ash.
“It’s so heartbreaking, I’ve seen someone flashing their torches at the top level and they obviously can’t get out.
“The guys are doing an incredible job to try and get people out that building, but it’s truly awful.”
Celeste Thomas, who lives near the scene, said: “Police moving everyone back. I literally live across the road. Hundreds of people outside. Residents and families trying to find each other.
“Police have moved everyone back out of direct sight but can hear cracking and debris falling.”
London Fire Brigade assistant commissioner Dan Daly said: “Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus are working extremely hard in very difficult conditions to tackle this fire.
“This is a large and very serious incident and we have deployed numerous resources and specialist appliances.”