June 14 (UPI) — London’s Metropolitan Police on Wednesday said six people died in the Grenfell Tower fire in Kensington, a death toll that’s expected to rise.
The blaze first broke out around 1:16 a.m. Wednesday in west London. Met Police officers arrived at the scene to assist the London Fire Brigade and the London Ambulance Service.
“Our thoughts are with everyone involved in this truly shocking fire at Grenfell Tower,” Met Police Cmdr. Stuart Cundy said in a statement on Wednesday. “I can confirm six fatalities at this time but this figure is likely to rise during what will be a complex recovery operation over a number of days. Many others are receiving medical care.”
Cundy said an extensive area has been sealed off around the decimated building, which was engulfed in flames in most parts from the second floor up to the roof. Cundy said it is too early to speculate the cause of the fire.
The London Fire Brigade said fatalities occurred but could not yet confirm how many people died.
London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said the fire is “unprecedented.” She said more than 200 firefighters and officers responded along with 40 fire engines and other specialist vehicles to the fire and also said it is too early to determine the cause of the fire.
Cotton said firefighters were working to bring the fire under control Wednesday morning.
“Based on the level of resources that were needed at this fire we declared it a major incident in the early hours of this morning,” Cotton said in a statement. “At this time I am sad to confirm that we now know that there have been fatalities. I cannot confirm the number at this time and as you will appreciate with a fire of this size, affecting such a large building it would be unhelpful of me to speculate further.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “truly devastated to see the horrific scenes of the major fire at GrenfellTower in Kensington.”
“My heart goes out to everyone affected. I am sad to confirm that we now know there have been fatalities and more than 50 people have been taken to hospitals,” Khan said in a statement. “There will be a great many questions over the coming days as to the cause of this tragedy and I want to reassure Londoners that we will get all the answers.”
The building’s safety precautions have been called into question, with some saying cladding — building material usually attached directly to the frame of a building to act as an outer wall, which layers the building to provide insulation and protection from the elements — caused the fire to spread.
Construction for the building was completed in 1974 and it underwent a renovation that was completed in May 2016. Cladding was added during the recent renovations.
Mike Penning, a member of British Parliament who is a former firefighter, said “cladding was clearly spreading the fire.”
Alice, a London resident who lives nearby, told The Guardian that she saw one person jump from the building while it was in flames.
Michael Paramasivan, a Grenfell Tower resident who was on the seventh floor, told NBC News the scene in the stairwell during evacuation was as “absolute horror story.”
“There was smoke everywhere, people screaming and shouting … It all happened so fast but was really, really frightening. I’m shaking.” Paramasivan said. “They say you’re supposed to put a towel under the door and wait for rescue but I wasn’t going to hang around … There was some kind of alarm but it was barely audible. It certainly wouldn’t have woken you up.”