UPDATE: Firefighters battle raging inferno at London apartment tower

A number of people have died in the devastating Grenfell Tower inferno (Watch video here), the London Fire Brigade have confirmed.

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton told reporters there had been a number of fatalities. She could not confirm numbers because of the complexity of the building.

Ms Cottton said firefighters arrived within six minutes to battle the blaze, which was the worst she’d ever seen.

A significant number of people are still unaccounted for at the fire which is still being brought under control.

It’s still unclear what the cause of the fire was.

The Met Police have not put a figure on the number of people missing, but anxious relatives and friends have started to post desperate messages on social media looking for their loved ones.

The BBC is reporting a “significant” number of people were unaccounted for.

Residents who escaped the inferno at the 27-storey Grenfell Tower in west London have been taken to evacuated to nearby churches and community centres.

It comes as police extend a zone around the building as fears increase it could collapse at any time. Debris has been crashing to the ground since the blaze began.

Elaine Lara lives on fourth storey of a building opposite the devastated tower. Through tears, she told news.com.au she was standing outside watching the fire engulf the building, powerless to help.

“I heard commotion outside at 1.30 and thought it was someone arguing. It was so intense that I went outside. It was a horrible scene, you could hear people screaming for help. You could hear a woman yelling: ‘Help, I have my kids’.

“Only in movies you see that sort of thing, not something you forget.”

She said she watched as residents tied sheets together to form a rope on the 10th floor.

“The screaming of people, it’s distressing to hear people calling out for help and you can’t do anything.

“There was somebody up there with a phone shining the light. You could see the fire spreading across. You really hope they got away but I feel deep down they didn’t.”

A police officer told news.com.au there could be survivors as trapped people could be seen in the windows in a section of the building that’s sealed off where the fire hadn’t spread to.

One man, Kamal Hassan, said his friend and his wife was one of those trapped inside with their three chidlen. “The phone is dead,” he told news.com.au near the scene.

Horrified onlookers said the inferno resembled “hell on earth” at its peaks, with huge flames engulfing the building.

“Haunting screams” could also be heard as hundreds of frantic firefighters battling the blaze.

Khalid Sarang, 23, lives in neighbouring block and said the scene was like “hell on earth”.

“There is a family of four trapped up there now screaming.The first thing I heard were the screams and I came running out.

“It’s like hell on earth.”

The shocking scene many west Londoners are waking to.

The reports are all unconfirmed by authorities — who have only confirmed a number of injuries — but no deaths or even if anyone is trapped.

Thirty people have been taken to five London hospitals. It wasn’t immediately known what their conditions were.

However, journalists at the scene report firefighters could be heard urging people not to panic and cover their mouths with wet towels to get out — and not just wait for rescuers. They were also being asked to shine torches or their mobile phones to help guide rescuers.

As dawn breaks in London the scale of the devastation is becoming clear. Parts of the fire appear to have been extinguished, but flames can still be seen on many floors.

The smell of smoke was everywhere, news.com.au Europe reporter Victoria Craw said. “There are people everywhere, it’s pandemonium. The firefighters look exhausted.”

At least 200 firefighters in 40 engines are battling the blaze. The London Ambulance service has 20 crews at the fire, according to the assistant director of operations Stuart Crighton.

A woman who lives across the road from the burning tower, Celeste Thomas, tweeted she can see debris falling and hear loud “cracking” noises from inside.

Ms Thomas said a man next to her was on the phone and trying to help someone get out of the inferno, “talking them through step by step”.

The smoke was getting thicker by the second and she and other residents were being pushed back as the cordon was increased.

One narrow road in and one narrow road out to the building was making it hard for engines to get in.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said a major incident had been declared.

One man could be seen waving a blanket from the window, while other people were reportedly visible inside, The Guardian reported.

“There was a woman with a child. I saw her waving maybe 30 miss ago,” a witness said. “She said I’ve got a child … I saw them spraying her window.”

Another devastating account from an eyewitness said a burning man had been seen falling.

Hadil Alamily told The Guardian she saw the man 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.”

Dana Ali, 30, told The Sun that her parents Maria, 51, and Khalid, 61 were trapped in their flat on the tenth floor of the building.

“They said they’re in their living room, they’re closing all the doors, they can’t get out. They opened the main door and saw black smoke,” she said after speaking to them on the phone.

“They couldn’t see anything so they closed the door back. And now I’m trying to call and they’re not answering.”

Usama Itani told the BBC he had seen “some evidence of life” from within the building.

“People blinking lights from within the building and things like that…I could see someone on perhaps the 11th floor standing with her hand to ear…maybe on the phone.”

The fire started at the top of the 27 storey building, which started at around 1.16am, local time. At least 200 people live there.

The block, which is located beside Kensington Aldridge Academy school, is managed by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) on behalf of the Council and contains 120 homes. It was built in 1974.

The fire has devastated the 27 storey building.

A blog late last yearby occupants of the tower warned only a catastrophic fire in the tower would “bring an end to the dangerous living conditions” of tenants and leaseholders.

“Unfortunately, the Grenfell Action Group have reached the conclusion that only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation.”

George Clarke, the presenter of Channel 4 TV program Amazing Spaces, told the BBC’s Radio 5 Live: “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 large scale works at the block included the installation of insulated exterior cladding, new double glazed windows and a new communal heating system.

A new communal entrance has been created and there are new facilities for returning tenants, Grenfell Under 3s Nursery and Dale Youth Amateur Boxing Club.

Terrified residents were evacuated from the surrounding streets and smoke could be seen from miles around.

Police have put up a cordon as firefighters battle to bring the blaze under control.

Met Police confirmed at least two people have been treated for smoke inhalation but are yet to confirm any more casualties.

A spokesman added: “Police were called at 1.16am on Wednesday, 14 June to reports of a large fire at a block of flats in the Lancaster West Estate, W11.

More than 200 firefighters are fighting the blaze.

“Officers, the London Fire Brigade and the London Ambulance Service are currently at the scene.

“An evacuation process is under way.

“At this stage we are aware of two people being treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

“Cordons are in place and it is advised that the estate and surrounding area is avoided.”

A statement from the London Fire Brigade said the fire had spread from the second floor to the top floor of the 27 floor building.

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.”

Mr Daly said the cause of the fire was unknown.

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