Towering Inferno Engulfs London Apartment Building

Firefighters are battling a massive fire in an apartment high-rise in London. (Mischa Saag via AP)

See below for updates.

A horrific fire in west London has engulfed a 27-story building tonight. The London Fire Brigade said that 200 firefighters and 40 firetrucks are on the scene of a massive conflagration that encompasses nearly every floor, from the second through the twenty-seventh. People are reportedly screaming for help and tying together bed sheets to try and escape the smoke and flames. Authorities are trying to rescue victims trapped in the building amid fears that the tower could collapse. There have been some reports of people jumping from the building.

Alice Ross from The Guardian just filed this report from the scene:

People can be seen at the windows, including one man waving a blanket from the window. People from neighbouring estates are huddled outside in their pyjamas near the flaming building, some shouting “put your head out the window” or calling the man with the blanket to shout his flat numbers so they can guide the fire services to him. Fire officers are spraying his window with water to try and douse the flames.

There’s a smell of acrid smoke and flaming debris is spiralling from the building. There’s the sound of breaking glass and dull pops.

“There was a woman with a child. I saw her waving maybe 30mins ago,” said a man who asked not to be named. “She said I’ve got a child … I saw them spraying her window.”

Hadil Alamily said in the past hour she saw “someone jump on fire from the top floor”. She had seen him flashing a light in an SOS pattern.

“He was screaming help, help, help but no one helped. He dashed a mattress out of the window. He was literally on fire and jumped.”

It’s obviously too soon to know for sure what caused the fire, but there is already some speculation:

And there’s this:

Here’s what the building looked like before:

We’ll continue to monitor this tragic situation and post updates as they become available.

Update 12:04 a.m EST:

From the London Fire Brigade website:

The Bronto Skylift had a total height of 110ft (33.5m) making it the tallest aerial appliance ever used by the Brigade and on its eight-wheeled chassis it was also the biggest.

The current aerial platform vehicles can reach heights of over 105ft (32m) and have an articulating arm that can navigate over obstacles, providing a secure location from which a firefighter can operate.

It’s now around 5:00 a.m. in London; here are some images from the scene:

Update 12:40 a.m. EST: 

A reminder that London has been through a lot lately:

The rescue effort is ongoing:

More reports about poor conditions at the building prior to the fire:

One witness told a BBC reporter that the fire was caused by an exploding refrigerator. That report is unconfirmed at this time. There are reportedly a “number of people unaccounted for,” according to the BBC.

Paul Munakr, who lives on the seventh floor of the tower, told the BBC that the fire alarms did not go off on his floor. He was awakened and alerted to the fire when he heard screams coming from the floor below. As he descended the stairs of the building at around 2:00 a.m., he passed firefighters on their way up the tower.

Of course, one can’t help but recall the 9/11 attacks tonight, remembering the victims trapped in the burning towers and the brave firefighters running toward the danger. Our prayers are with victims and first responders in London this morning.

Update 1:29 a.m. EST

Londoners wake up to a nightmare:

I’m no expert on high-rise fires, but this seems like bad insane advice:

If 9/11 taught us anything it was that you GET OUT FAST.

A BBC reporter just said that “ambulances are arriving but not leaving.” As of now, there are no reports of casualties. Thirty patients have been taken to five different hospitals. We do know that there are many reports of people missing and unaccounted for, including a 12-year-old girl who called her mother from a fire escape as she tried to escape the fire. Her terrified aunt is appealing for help in finding the girl.

Besides the injuries and possible casualties, there’s also the fact that hundreds of families are now homeless, and many of them have lost everything. They ran out of the building with just the clothes on their back—pajamas, in many cases. They’re now being shuttled to area shelters, but they’ll need to make more permanent arrangements in the very near future, even as they try to come to terms with the scale of this disaster.


Final Update 3:02 a.m. EST: London Fire Brigade confirms that there have been “a number of fatalities” but cannot not say how many “due to the size and complexity” of the building. She also said the cause of the fire is “not known at this stage.”

PJM will have more on this story Wednesday on HOT MIC and in our regular news coverage. Check back for updates.