World

Children hurled from burning building

Grenfell Tower blaze one of the worst central London fires in recent memory

LONDON One woman lost two of her six children when trying to escape a burning London tower block early yesterday morning while others tried to throw their children to safety, witnesses said.

At least twelve people have died and police expect the death toll to rise further after a blaze swept through the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block in central London. Bystanders and residents reported scenes of panic, Reuters reported.

"Everyone was in shock, everyone was fleeing, screaming," Mr Michael Paramasivan, a resident of the block, told BBC radio.

"I spoke to a lady that lives on the 21st storey. She has six kids. She left with all six of them.

"When she got downstairs, there was only four of them with her. She is now breaking her heart."

A bystander, Ms Samira Lamrani, said she saw a baby thrown from a window on the ninth or 10th storey.

"People were starting to appear at the windows, frantically banging and screaming," she told London's Evening Standard newspaper.

"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."

Another witness, Ms Tamara, told the BBC she also saw people trying to throw their children to safety.

"There are people, like, throwing their kids out: 'Just save my children, just save my children'," she said.

"There are people at their windows: 'Help me, help me, help me!' You can see the fire go into the house and into the last room that they're in, and just engulfing their whole apartment."

Reuters was unable to verify the witness accounts.

Flames raced through the high-rise in the north Kensington area after taking hold around 1am (8am, Singapore time).

More than 200 firefighters, backed up by 40 fire engines, fought for hours to bring the blaze, one of the biggest seen in central London in memory, under control.

Police Commander Stuart Cundy said a "recovery operation" could take some time and there could be people in the building who are unaccounted for.

The cause of the fire, which left the tower block a charred, smoking shell, was not immediately known.

The block had recently undergone an £8.7 million (S$15.3 million) refurbishment of the exterior, which included new external cladding, replacement windows and curtain wall facades.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the fire raised questions over safety of high-rise blocks like Grenfell Tower.

The BBC reported that a political deal between the government of Prime Minister Theresa May and a small Northern Irish party could be delayed because of the aftermath of the fire.

More than 12 hours after the fire broke out, the building was still smouldering, though it was not in danger of collapse.

Firefighters rescued large numbers of people - some of them in their pyjamas - from the 43-year-old block, a low-rent housing estate.

Burning debris cascaded from the blazing building.

"There was bits of building falling off all around me, I scalded my shin on a hot piece of metal that had fallen off the building," said Mr Jodie Martin, who lives close to the building and had gone to the scene to try to help.

"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'," he told BBC Radio.

Local residents had warned a year ago about a potential fire risk caused by rubbish being allowed to accumulate during improvement works, AFP reported.

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