Fire engulfs tower block in west London

A massive fire ripped through a 24-story apartment complex in west London early Wednesday, killing an unknown number of people, London's fire chief said. "It's just billowing black smoke".

There have been a "number of fatalities" in the block, London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton told reporters.

Muna Ali, 45, said: "The flames, I have never seen anything like it, it just reminded me of 9/11".

Many residents who gathered outside the smoldering ruins of the building said the fire had been caused by a faulty fridge in one of the flats, but the fire service told MailOnline it could not confirm the reports at this stage.

He said he was alerted to the fire not by fire alarms but by people on the street below, shouting "don't jump, don't jump".

"On the stairwells, the doors are not hermetically sealed fire doors", he said.

She said the cause was not yet known. Residents said it appeared to start in an apartment on a lower floor and spread upward quickly.

The area is being evacuated and the people who have escaped from the horrific scenes can not believe they are still alive to talk about what happened.

One neighbour saw people jumping from as high as 15 floors up to escape.

Wahabi, 39, who lives on the ninth floor of the 24-storey Grenfell Tower, said she was awoken by smoke at around 1:00am on Wednesday.

"We saw the people screaming", she said.

Officers were sent to the scene to assist colleagues from the London Fire Brigade and the London Ambulance Service. It was fire up, up, up.

They said official advice in the event of a fire had been to stay inside.

The BBC's Andy Moore said the whole tower block was alight and there are fears the building might collapse.

Refurbishment of the housing block had been completed a year ago and the Fire Brigades Union said something had gone badly wrong with fire prevention procedures at the building.

Eddie, 55, who lives on the 16th floor, said he ran out of his house with a wet towel wrapped around his head as smoke engulfed the flat. "There was heavy smoke in the hallway". I just ran down the stairs...

Others searched for information at makeshift centers set up in the area.

Boutrig said her friend's brother, wife and children lived in the building and that her friend was waiting to find out if they were okay. She says firefighters are still working and she can't say how many people may have died.

Some evacuated residents found refuge in nearby St Clement's Church and sat dazed on the pews as volunteers handed out food and drink.

The Metropolitan Police said two people were being treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and cordons were in place.

"Crews wearing breathing apparatus have been working in extremely hard conditions to rescue people and bring this major fire under control".

George Clarke, the presenter of "Amazing Spaces", told Radio 5 Live he was covered in ash even though he was 100 meters (yards) from the scene.

He added: "I did see people working on a stairwell with a gas pipe over the past few weeks. I just hope they have got everyone out".

The survivors, whose belongings are presumed to have been destroyed, gathered in the nearby Rugby Portobello community centre where they were given water, clothes and blankets.

"Now, our advice was always been told, if there's a fire stay in your flat", he said, a claim other residents and members of the Grenfell Action Group made as recently as past year about the apartment block run by a tenant management group on behalf of the local council.

The tower, built in 1974, recently underwent an £8.6m redevelopment.

"This matter is of particular concern as there is only one entry and exit to Grenfell Tower during the improvement works", read a blog post by the Grenfell Action Group.

  • Leroy Wright