6 people killed in London high-rise fire, death toll expected to rise

Smoke and flames rise from building on fire in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Firefighters are battling a massive fire in an apartment high-rise in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

LONDON (AP) — London’s Metropolitan Police say six people have died in the devastating fire that engulfed a west London apartment block. Police say the number is expected to rise.

Police commander Stuart Cundy says he can “confirm six fatalities at this time but this figure is likely to rise during what will be a complex recovery operation over a number of days.”

74 people have reportedly been treated, with 20 of those people in critical condition after a massive fire set a 24-story apartment block in west London ablaze overnight.

Commissioner Dany Cotton calls the fire an “unprecedented incident” and says she has never seen anything on this scale in her 29-year career.

Fire raced through the 24-floor Grenfell Tower in North Kensington around 1 a.m.

London’s Fire Brigade says that a structural engineer and urban search and rescue crews have assessed the stability of the burning tower block in west London and believe it is not in danger of collapsing.

The brigade says “it is safe for our crews to be in there.” It added the cause of the massive fire is not known at this stage.

Stuart Crichton, the Ambulance Service’s assistant director of operations, says 100 medics are on the scene, together with ambulance crews and advanced trauma teams.

A witness says she saw a member of the public catch a baby that was dropped from the burning tower block in west London.

Samira Lamrani told Britain’s Press Association she saw a woman try to save the baby by dropping it from a window “on the ninth or 10th floor.”

She says “people were starting to appear at the windows, frantically banging and screaming. The windows were slightly ajar, a woman was gesturing that she was about to throw her baby and if somebody could catch her baby.

“Somebody did, a gentleman ran forward and managed to grab the baby.”

A survivor of the massive high-rise apartment fire says he’s lucky to be alive.

Edward Daffarn says he was on the 16th floor and heard a neighbor’s smoke alarm go off and another neighbor called and told him to get out. He says there was heavy smoke in the hallway and he couldn’t find the stairs.

He says tenants have been complaining for years about issues at the building.

The Grenfell Action Group, a community organization formed to oppose a nearby redevelopment project, has been warning about the risk of fire there since 2013. The group says on its blog that it has raised concerns about testing and maintenance of firefighting equipment and blocked emergency access to the site.

Police have turned a church near the scene into a makeshift center for evacuees.

A woman showed up in tears looking for her sister, who lived in the 24-story building that caught fire. Officials did not have any information to give her.

Many people at St. Clement’s church are in wheelchairs and have been brought from adjacent buildings that were evacuated by firefighters because of fears the fire might spread.

Hugo Zarey, who lives in one of the other buildings, says he could hear the commotion outside when police pounded on his door and ordered him to leave.

He says it was frightening but people are being cared for well.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

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