LONDON — Following recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, the United Kingdom was again confronted by scenes of horror Wednesday as an apartment building became engulfed in flames with residents trapped inside. At least 12 people died and dozens were being treated for a "range of injuries." The death toll was expected to increase.
Witnesses have been speaking about what they experienced and saw:
Samira Lamrani told Britain’s Press Association she saw someone catch a baby dropped from the "ninth or 10th floor" of the 24-story tower block in west London. “People were starting to appear at the windows, frantically banging and screaming. The windows were slightly ajar, a woman was gesturing she was about to throw her baby and if somebody could catch her. Somebody did, a gentleman ran forward and managed to grab the baby."
David Benjamin was staying at his girlfriend's apartment when the fire broke out. They were sleeping when they heard banging on the door. Benjamin told British TV he looked through the keyhole of the apartment's front door and saw people running down the hallway. "Bits of the ceiling were coming off and people were screaming. People on the upper floors were still sleeping so they probably didn't even have a clue about what was going on."
Michael Paramaseevan, who lives on the seventh floor of the Grenfell Tower apartment building with his partner and young daughter, told the BBC he ignored official safety advice to stay in his apartment in the event of a fire. "If we had stayed in that flat, we would've perished. My gut instinct told me just to get the girls out. I wrapped the little one up because of the smoke and I just got them out," he said.
George Clarke, the presenter of a popular TV show about home renovations, told Radio 5 Live that he saw people waving flashlights and cell phone lights from the top levels of the building to try to attract the attention of rescue workers. At one point, most of the building was engulfed in flames. Other witnesses spoke of people trying to construct makeshift ropes out of bedsheets to try to escape the flames.
"I watched one person falling out. I watched another woman holding her baby out the window," Jody Martin told the BBC. "I was yelling at everyone to get down and they were saying: 'We can't leave our apartments, the smoke is too bad.'"
The building is still on fire in some places and many people remain unaccounted for. Twenty people were in a critical condition in area hospitals. The Metropolitan Police set up an emergency number for anyone concerned about friends and family.