In just a few hours, a terrifying blaze swept through an apartment block in West London. Witnesses described in details how the tragedy unfolded in the residential building in the British capital.
“At about 2am I was woken up by screaming, sirens and helicopters. We came outside and were confronted with the building that was completely engulfed in flames,” Joanna O'Connor, a local resident, told Sky News.
She saw “hundreds of people lining the streets” and heard them screaming and crying, she said.
Thick black smoke was everywhere in the building, Michael Paramasivan told BBC radio.
“As we went past the fourth floor it was completely thick black smoke. As we’ve gone outside I’m looking up at the block and it was just going up. It was like pyrotechnics. It was just unbelievable how quick it was burning.”
One woman was screaming for someone still trapped on the 7th floor of the building, a witness told the Guardian.
“There was a woman stood behind me who was shouting to someone she knew on the seventh floor. She was on the phone trying to speak to him, she was obviously very emotional because the flats were blazing at this point,” she added.
Tim Downie, another eyewitness, told the Telegraph he feared the building would collapse.
“It’s horrendous. The whole building is engulfed in flames. It’s gone. It’s just a matter of time before this building collapses,” he said.
Greg Stevens, an evacuee, told Ruptly News Agency he saw a child jumping from the window.
“The fire started happening on the third floor. We called the fire brigade. They came 20 minutes later. And then the whole thing just went off. An hour and a half later I saw a kid on the 22nd floor on fire. He went to the window and jumped,” Stevens said.
Siar Naqshabandi, who lives on the third floor, said his family lived on the 23rd and his uncle was still missing.
“They were telling people not to leave the building,” he said. “I told them to get down. They said we’re not allowed to get out.”
Witnesses who gathered at the site of the tragedy said they were shouting to the building’s resident to get out.
“I was just screaming at people: ‘Get out, get out’ and they were screaming back at me: ‘We can’t, the corridors are full of smoke,’” Jodie Martin told BBC radio.
Majid, another eyewitness, told Eyes On Events he was shouting to people to “use the stairs.”
Another evacuee, Daniel Williams, described how fire brigades were battling the blaze.
“They’ve come down, and they’ve tried to put the fire out but they weren’t reaching it… As the fire got higher, then they decided to use the ladders. But even then, the fire has just gone up. And now half of the building is gone,” he told Ruptly.
One resident of the 24-storey building told the Guardian he has lost everything he owns in the blaze.
“I’m lucky to be alive – and lots of people have not got out of the building,” he told Guardian. “I’ve lost everything I own. I’m standing here in everything I’ve got,” he said.
Many residents complained that they did not hear a fire alarm when the blaze started.
“I walked out into the common area to see if the lifts are moving, to see if people are in a hassle – nothing,” one more man who lives on the 17th floor and who managed to escape with his 68-year-old aunt, said.
“But I could smell the smoke… then I [saw] the fire blazing, and coming up really fast, because of the cladding – the cladding was really flammable, and it just caught up like a matchstick,” he added.
Paul Munakr, who lives on the 7th floor, told BBC he also was alerted by the screams, not by the fire alarms.
“Now, honestly I don’t know for certain if people jumped off the building to get away from the fire, but the main thing for me with this incident is the fact that the fire alarms didn’t go off in the building,” he said.