At least 12 dead in apartment tower fire

LONDON — A fire transformed a high-rise apartment tower in West London into an inferno early Wednesday morning, sending at least 78 people to hospitals and raising fears that others might have been trapped inside. The Metropolitan Police said that 12 people had died and warned that the figure would almost certainly rise.

"In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never, ever seen anything of this scale," said Dany Cotton, commissioner of the London Fire Brigade.

By late afternoon, firefighters from all over London were still searching for victims and working to extinguish the remnants of the blaze, which was reported at 12:54 a.m. London time in Grenfell Tower, in the North Kensington area. A police commander, Stuart Cundy, called the fire London's worst "in many, many years" and said it would be "a long operation" to locate and identify the victims.

The fire was the latest tragedy in a country that has seen three deadly terrorist attacks since March, two in London and one in Manchester. The office of Prime Minister Theresa May said she was "deeply saddened" by the disaster and would convene a 4 p.m. meeting to coordinate the government's response.

At a 1 p.m. news conference — 12 hours after the fire broke out — Mayor Sadiq Khan confirmed that some residents were still missing. "If you are somebody who lives in the building and has left safely, please let us know you are safe," he said. "Obviously, we want to make sure that everyone is accounted for."

Constructed in 1974, Grenfell Tower has 24 stories, with 120 apartments across 20 residential floors; it is owned by the local government and managed by an outside company. A refurbishment was completed last year. The cause of the fire was not immediately known, but a tenant group had complained for years that the management company was inattentive and that the building was at risk of a deadly fire.

Forty fire trucks and more than 20 ambulances were sent to the scene. The London Ambulance Service said it had taken 68 patients to six hospitals, and that 10 others had gone on their own; 18 were in critical condition.


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