LONDON – A number of people were killed, at least 50 injured and many others missing on Wednesday as a fire ripped through a high-rise apartment building in west London where residents had long warned of the potential risk of a catastrophic blaze.
A thick plume of smoke could be seen for miles around, while witnesses reported people jumping from open windows near the top of the 24-story building after being trapped by the advancing flames.
Hundreds of other residents, many who had been asleep when the blaze broke out shortly before 1 a.m., were forced to flee down dark and smoky stairwells. The building, which is located in a poverty-stricken pocket of one of London’s wealthiest neighborhoods, was engulfed within minutes, said locals.
“It was like a horror movie, smoke was coming from everywhere,” said building resident Adeeb, who hobbled down nine flights of stairs on crutches with his wife and three children.
Adeeb, who declined to give his last name, said there had been no alarms, and that he only learned of the fire when his daughter woke him.
“She said ‘I can see fire’ and I opened the door and could see smoke,” added Adeeb, who is originally from Syria but has lived in Britain for 16 years. One of his daughters was hospitalized.
London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said “a number” of people had been confirmed dead. London ambulance services said they had taken 50 people to five area hospitals.
At least 40 fire engines responded to the scene, with 200 firefighters involved in a futile effort to contain the blaze. Many rushed into the building wearing breathing tanks, searching floor by floor for…
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