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Inferno in London's Apartment. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired June 14, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, HOST, CNN: Hello and welcome, everyone. We are continuing our breaking news coverage on CNN. I'm Rosemary Church.

MAX FOSTER, HOST, CNN: And I'm Max Foster in London. Following that breaking news from west London where a massive fire completely engulfed this 24-storey apartment building overnight.

Just minutes ago the fire brigade told us there had been a number of deaths but they can't say exactly how many at this time. We do know that 30 people have been taken to five hospitals across the capital with injuries. We're also told every floor of the building has been affected.

These are the latest pictures for you. It's not clear right now how many people still might be trapped inside or indeed how many escaped. The fire broke out before daybreak, shortly after 1 a.m., when most almost everyone inside would have been asleep.

Right now there's a thick cloud of smoke billowing from the high-rise and across west London. No word yet on how the fire started. But it appears to be the worst one in the city since the fire back in 2009 killed six people in south London.

Oren Liebermann has been on the scene for hours. He joins us now. It looks like it's in control but we don't know what's going on inside the building.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: That's right, Max. The fire and the flames and the smoke have dramatically dissipated since I got here about four hours ago when we saw flames pouring out of almost every window here behind me.

It is now mostly smoke, although we have seen hot spots flare up over the course of the last few minutes or so. Much smaller than the flames we saw earlier today. But the evidence of what happened here early this morning and what continues to happen here as smoke pours out of this building is evident for anyone from miles around.

And we have spoken to witness who came from five miles away because they saw the smoke pouring out of the Grenfell Towers here behind me. As you point out we just got the confirmation, the worst fear that has been out here that we have speculated about and we've heard so many others worry about has been realized.

There have been a number of deaths according to the London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton. She cannot say how many yet because she still calls it a very complex situation saying that in her 29 years with the fire brigade this is the worst she has seen.

I'll step out of the way here and we can take a look here at what is left of this building. The smoke has dramatically dissipated again from earlier today. And you can see most of the windows blown out or broken in some other way.

There have been reports of people jumping from the building for safety -- or in an attempt to save their lives because of how bad the flames were. As well as a number of other reports of evacuations and people running out. And we've spoken to people running out. And since then we've heard two emotions repeatedly. Hope. Hope that as many people as possible made it out and fear that not everyone made it out.

And that as I've just told you is the fear that has been realized with the fire commissioner confirming that there have been deaths in this horrific fire in Kensington in west London.

The fire commissioner wouldn't confirm that the fire is officially contained or under control. But again, it has dissipated quite significantly since earlier today. Still smoke pouring out. Flames in a couple spots but nothing like it was earlier.

As for the main question, why, what started this fire, that we don't have an answer to yet, and that's not a primary concern right now until this fire is under control and firefighters and emergency services have done everything they can to get everyone out and to get everyone the help they need.

We've spoken with the local leader of the council here, the Kensington and Chelsea council and he says they've activated a number of community centers to try to help as many people as possible going forward here and they will continue to do so.

A number of hospitals in the area five of them we know so far filled with some 30 patients being treated for presumably smoke inhalation, possibly burns as well. This fire tearing through this building very quickly early this morning.

We learned from the fire commissioner it was at 12.54, just a few minutes before 1 in the morning that they got the first call. The first fire crews were on scene six minutes later so, right at 1 o'clock, but there was little they could do against the fire that was spreading so quickly throughout this 24-storey building, leading to evacuations and now as we've just learned leading to a number of deaths. Max?

FOSTER: OK, Oren, thank you. Phil Black is also standing by. Phil, some talk about the building collapsing. But the authorities don't seem to be too concerned about that.

PHIL BLACK, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, Max, I think that's true. I think there was some concern about that initially just because of the scale of the fire. But no, the authorities do not seem to be too concerned. They've set up a perimeter. I suspect if that were the concern the perimeter would be much further back than where we are standing right now.

[03:04:57] What we've been hearing through the are incredible stories though. People who were in the building when it caught fire and people who saw it all unfold. I'm joined by two people now who witnessed this through the night, Sameera (Ph) and Samara (Ph). Guys you live just across the road from the building, is that right?


BLACK: And you saw the fire start in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. So, initially I was in bed. I got up. And it wasn't as bad. It was only about three floors, four floors.

BLACK: What time was this roughly?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was around midnight. Around 12.30-ish. So we have between 12 to 12.30 and it was only about four floors. By 1 o'clock the whole -- by 1 something the whole building -- so not even 45 minutes the whole building was in flames and you know, it was extremely sad because you could hear people screaming for help. Asking us help us, help us, little kids.

People -- I saw a man actually throw himself out of the window, you know, and kids actually we saw -- me and Samara both saw a kid being dangled out of the window. And Samara actually ran to the scene.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I first heard it my mum kind of was like there's a fire. She thought it was only the fourth floor. When I saw it, it was the whole left -- the whole right side of the building. By the time me and my brother -- we could hear people yell "save my children, save my children." There was more concerned about how they had their kids out the windows. There was jumping. There was panic. We actually ran up underneath the building...

BLACK: So how many floors, when you say you saw children being dangled from the windows, how many floors up are you talking?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's 23 floors in the building and about eight and up, definitely were when people started jumping out. So that was extremely high. So no one was like below 8 trying to jump out. The majority that we saw were really high up. I couldn't exactly tell you what number. But it definitely was the eighth floor and up.

And Samara had a family member, a family friend who was stuck on the eighth floor with her 5-year-old daughter and she only come out at 5 o'clock. So she was talking...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five hours later. We was told at one stage that we must get back and tell her to escape herself because no one's coming to rescue her because she was told to stay put.

BLACK: So there's people that were jumping out the windows, were they physically jumping or were they climbing down?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. They just literally just jumped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They thought I'm not going to sit here and suffocate or burn to death by jumping.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The authorities were at the bottom. They just assumed, you know, someone would catch or someone would be there.

BLACK: Do you have any -- were you able from where you were standing to get any sense of what happened to these people?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tamara was actually there.

BLACK: Do you know if they were caught, if they survived?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a lot of dead bodies. A lot of kids. A lot of dead bodies that were all on the floor. They were obviously covered up. But there were a lot of people that did not make the floor.

BLACK: You saw bodies around the base of the building.


BLACK: The authorities have confirmed there have been fatalities but they haven't discussed numbers yet.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. There are actual bodies there. Kids, women, men. There are bodies all there that have made a result of them jumping out and trying to save themselves.

BLACK: And for you guys witnessing this as it unfolded, what was that like for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was shocking because it happened so quickly. We've been running back, because once I got underneath the building there was a piece so I was running away from it. So we thought OK, why are you running away that we all going to run away. Because there's obviously something that you're not telling us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we ran away. And by the time I got back to my -- which is just down the road. The whole of the building was on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It definitely escalated really quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We literally watched a man burn to death in his flat. We watched the flames enter his house, go through his room and go straight into the room that he was in. And that's not something I...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most people that live in these buildings are people we grew up with, are kids that are my little brother's and my little sister's friends. These are people you see daily. These are, you know, the neighbors you say hi to. These are people that we actually know or people that we know of or people we see all the time.

So I think it definitely hit home in a sense where these are all little kids that are -- you know, luckily for me my little brothers and sisters were safe in their beds, but it's just people their age, you know, dying in the building.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Friends and family living there. And a lot of people that I knew.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unaccounted for as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unaccounted for. My brother's friends. He goes to school right in front of the building.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's been unable to get in contact with.

BLACK: We've heard a lot of talk. You described some terrible things. We heard a lot of talk about how quickly the fire spread. You guys saw this.



BLACK: Give us a sense. How quickly did it spread? Why do you think it spread so quickly?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Honestly, it literally went from 0 to 100 so quickly because it initially started off obviously fourth floor. It was extremely bad, don't get me wrong, but it was very minor compared to how it turned out.

But I think within honestly 15 to 20 minutes it was halfway up and that building's really big as well.

[03:10:00] So for it to be halfway up within 15 to 20 minutes, it was a thing where inside you could actually see through the building, see the flames that was going through the building.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was within a matter of minutes. It was getting worse and worse. Like the firefighters were trying to pull it out. But I thought like they weren't even getting -- in those five hours it just got worse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just got worse. And at one stage they just was like we can't go back. We can't go in there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. The firefighters actually said they don't have a safe route to go through and whoever's in there has to escape themselves because we can't go and get them.

BLACK: OK. Sameera (Ph) and Tamara (Ph), thank you very much for sharing that with us. I hope you're going to be all right. Thank you so much. Cheers.

Max, something, truly extraordinary stories there about people surviving or desperately trying to survive, throwing themselves out, climbing down buildings. We know the authorities have said that there are confirmed fatalities. They haven't discussed numbers.

But those two witnesses who live just across the road talked about seeing multiple bodies, adults and children around the base of the building. They talked about seeing people throw themselves out rather than be consumed by fire many, many floors up the building.

It's just all pretty extraordinary stuff. You heard them talking about how quickly the fire spread. We've been speaking to people inside the building who talked about this as well. Their collective theory is that some cladding was installed on the building in the last few years some sort of synthetic material to improve its appearance.

When people talk about the flames racing up the side of the building, they say it was consuming that cladding, that's what actually fed the fire and enabled it to move between so many floors so quickly. Max, back to you.

FOSTER: Phil, thank you. And Rosemary, lots of questions about the advice people were given as well by the fire brigade. Apparently in these tower blocks the advice is to stay in your apartment for at least the first hour. But if you'd done you that would have seen what would have happened.

CHURCH: Exactly right. So many questions that need to be answered at this stage. Thanks, Max. We'll come back to you in just a moment.

And Mike Burroughs joins us now on the phone. He is a fire expert and an associate at fire investigations in the U.K. Thank you, sir, for talking with us under these very unfortunate circumstances.

And what we keep hearing from people is just how fast this blaze moved up that building. We heard from those two witnesses there. They thought that by 15, 20 minutes it had moved halfway up the building. How would you explain that? What do you think caused that fire to move so quickly?

MIKE BURROUGHS, ASSOCIATE, FIRE INVESTIGATIONS: Yes, good morning. First I'd like to echo my thoughts are with the families and friends and firefighters involved in this. It's the very, very early stages. All I've seen so far is what I've seen on the television screens.

What it looks like to me is that there is the fire spreading up the outside of the building and moving more quickly vertically than it does sideways. What usually happens is it's going up and getting into the flats through the windows. And once inside the flats there's all the things we put in our homes for our comforts. The furniture and the books and the bed and everything else.

And most of those things will burn, which is creating a very, very intense fire. I must say spreading up quickly. Fire always spreads much more quickly than most people expect because thankfully most people's experience is only seeing if the movies or on a fictional TV series. But fire in real life is just much more aggressive than people realize.

CHURCH: All right. Mike Burroughs joining us there with his expert opinion on why this fire moved so quickly. We're going to take a very short break right now.

When we come back, we will hear from witnesses to the London fire. Horrifying stories of people jumping from the building trying to escape the flames.


FOSTER: We're following breaking news for you out of west London where a major fire has engulfed a high-rise apartment building. London fire brigade confirms there are fatalities.

Fire officials say the cause will be fully investigated but right now the focus on rescue and relief operations. London ambulance service says it's taken 30 patients to five hospitals and we have some disturbing video to show you.

As firefighters worked to put out the flames you can see a person trapped inside the apartment. He's waving some kind of towel or flag to signal to firefighters. And you can also see sparks and what appear to be parts of the building falling from above.

We have to tell you we don't know the status of this man. And this is the concern right now. Firefighters can't get into the building. They don't know what's going on inside or who may be trapped and what sort of bodies or anything might be inside.

Let's listen to what the London fire brigade commissioner said just a short while ago about the situation.


DANY COTTON, LONDON FIRE BRIGADE COMMISSIONER: This is a major fire that has affected all floors of this 24-storey building from the second floor upwards. I have over 200 of my firefighters and officers attending this incident with 40 fire engines and a range of specialist vehicles including 14 fire rescue units in attendance.

Based on the level of resource that was needed for this fire we declared this a major incident very early this morning. London Fire Brigade's control room took multiple calls to this incident with the first call coming in at six minutes to 1 o'clock. Our first fire engines were on scene in under six minutes. Crews

wearing breathing apparatus crew -- breathing apparatus and extended duration breathing apparatus have been working in extremely challenging and very difficult conditions. To rescue people and to bring this major fire under control.


FOSTER: Let's go to Phil Black. He's been speaking to people in the area. Phil.

BLACK: Max, we've been speaking to people, people who were in the building, people who lived around it. All of them have some extraordinary tales to tell.

I'm joined by another one now. Brenda Mercer, who lived in the area and who witnessed this unfold from the view from your home just nearby. Is that right, Brenda?


BLACK: Tell me, tell the viewers about what you saw as the night progressed.

MERCER: Well, I got woken up with somebody shouting that the block was on fire. I went on to my roof's terrace and I could see the block and the flames going up both sides of it. It was just horrific. It was so awful to see.

I'm watching people at the windows waving and shouting for help and screaming. And then just seeing their flats engulfed with smoke, they're not knowing whether they were going to be safe or able to get out. It was just horrible to see. Sad. We felt completely helpless because you couldn't do anything.

BLACK: What were the people who lived there, what are they trying to do to get attention, trying to attract from.

MERCER: Well, they were waving. They were shining torches. Just making any sort of move that they could to let someone on the ground know that they were still in the property.

BLACK: And you saw the fire move in closer to them.

MERCER: Yes. We saw the smoke, and then after it went to the flat then we saw the flames moving closer and closer to their flat. So we just sort of standing there not knowing what happened to them. I'm feeling the, you know, I mean, why you sort of let them down because you couldn't be there to get them out to help them. It's just a feeling that doesn't go away. Even now I just feel so sick inside that I wasn't able to do more.

[03:19:58] BLACK: For you personally here we are the next morning. What are you thinking and feeling now?

NERCER: Well, feeling that it should never have happened. I think before they decided to have the outside of the block that the firefighters would have been able to have done more.

BLACK: That's an interesting point a few people have talked to us about here. They say the building had received some cladding in recent years. And they believe people, tell me, you believe that cladding -- other people have told us this. Was responsible for allowing the fire to move, is that right?

MERCER: I think so.

BLACK: Fueling the fire between the floors.

MERCER: Yes, definitely. It just moved so quickly. If it had been left as it was just concrete I think that, you know, where it started I believe on the second floor it would have been able to be controlled a lot of better but because of the cladding it just moved up the building with such speed. You know, just horrific to see how fast it took hold of it.

BLACK: Brenda, thank you very much. Thank you. All the best. Thank you.

So Max, that theory is something we've heard from people who lived around the building and people who lived inside the building. They say that within the last few years some form of external cladding was added to the building to include its improvement -- to improve its appearance, I should say, and it was some full of some synthetic substance.

If you look at the pictures overnight they clearly show the fire racing along the surface of the building. As I say the locals here seem pretty firmly, seem to pretty firmly believe that cladding is actually responsible for allowing the fire to move so quickly between the floors of an otherwise very solid concrete building.

You heard what Brenda was saying there about seeing people trapped, unable to help them, watching them there for long periods of time, desperately trying to get help and attention. We were speaking to some people live a short time ago who told us they saw people rather than be consumed by flame they jumped. The heat got too much. They literally leapt from the buildings at very high -- at very high floors.

Now, the authorities have confirmed that there are fatalities. They've yet to tell us numbers. The witnesses we were talking to a short time ago said they saw bodies around the base of the building. They believe adults, they believe children as well. That's not confirmed.

But that's what we're hearing from people who lived just across from the building and who watched all of this unfold over the course of the night.

We have also been talking to people who are in the building, realized something was wrong pretty early on and managed to escape. These are people who smelled what they call a chemical smell, stuck their head out into the hallway, heard commotion, very quickly saw and smelled the smoke and simply grabbed what they could and ran. These are people who are being helped at a community center not far

from where I'm standing who are this morning feeling tremendously relieved but also significantly traumatized for the fear and panic that they felt as they were -- as they were running fleeing through the smoke.

And also desperately concerned for all the other people in the building whose health and status they just simply don't know about. People they live with, people they pass, their neighbors, their friends, they know that there are lots of people that they haven't heard from and they don't know where they are or how they're doing, Max.

FOSTER: Phil, thank you. The idea of someone watching people trying to get out and being utterly helpless, horrific. Some more background on the building. Phil was describing a bit about it there. But it's a 24-storey Grenfell tower. Very familiar to people living in that area. Built in the 1970s. It's in the midst of a $10 million redevelopment right now, or was. And this is how it looked before the fire.

Buildings in the west London suburbs close to Knotting Hill, close to a very busy road. People will know it from the scene if they travel on that road. It's a short walk from the Latimer Road underground station and the Westfield shopping center according to property web site the average rent in the building is around $2,500 a month.

Well, earlier we heard from witness who said people were trapped and screaming for hours but no one came.


ABDULLAH BARRAQ MOHIDIN, WITNESS: People shout for help for hours and hours and no one helped them. No one came to help them. The police were telling people to stay back, yes? Police were telling them stay in your houses, stay in your houses, we'll come to help you guys. And no one -- no one inside.

Everyone was outside. The fire trucks around the building telling people do you know what's the fastest way to go inside the building. People on the street, what's the fastest way to get in the building? Like there was so much ways to get in that building.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many people -- Abdullah, how many people did you see shouting for help?

[03:24:52] MOHIDIN: I saw maybe like 15 people. There was a mother, a dad or a son. They were at the 18th floor. And they was shouting for like three hours. For three hours they were shouting help, help, help. The fire was on the other side of the building. The fire was so small. Like the way it was here is like they could have went to the other side or went upstairs and gotten people downstairs, yes? But no one did helped them.


FOSTER: We've just had a statement from metropolitan police. We've obviously heard from the fire and ambulance services this is from the police confirming a number of fatalities following that fire in north Kensington. They were called out they say at 1.16 local.

I mean, the horrifying thing about that is it means that everyone was in bed. It means the tower block was pretty much full. A large fire there describing officers sent to the scene to assist colleagues from the fire brigade. Residents had been evacuated from the tower block. A number of those sought medical assistance from the London ambulance service. The evacuation process is continuing they are saying.

So they're continuing to try to get people out of there. The commander on duty says all the emergency services and other agencies continue to work together at the scene. He can confirm there have been fatalities. Others receiving medical care. They're trying to make contact with the next of kin.

So there are people who have suffered or have died and their family haven't been informed yet. Anyone who's concerned about loved ones in relation to the fire should contact the casualty bureau at the met police. If you don't get through, keep trying. Suggesting that the lines are very busy, people trying to get through.

Extensive cordons remain in place. A number of nearby residents have been evacuated as well as a precaution. And that is linked to the fact there is concern about the building not necessarily collapsing but there's debris falling down from it.

The a-40 is close in both directions. That's a major thoroughfare between the west and the mid-lands, the west England in the midlands into London. So it's causing major transport problems as well. We know that the tube services around there have been closed as well. It's likely to take some time the police say before they are in the position to confirm the cause of the fire. (TECHNICAL PROBLEM)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

CHURCH: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the fire in west London. I'm Rosemary Church at CNN center.

FOSTER: I'm Max Foster here in London. Just hearing 50 patients have been taken now to five hospitals across London. Also a number of fatalities as a result of that fire in an apartment block, a well- known one in west London.

Phil Black is there on the ground.

BLACK: Max, to talk a little bit more about this building I'm joined now by someone who knows it well. Robert Atkinson is a councilor with the Kensington and Chelsea local authority. Robert, this is your local ward. You represent these people.


BLACK: You've been in that building many times.

ATKINSON: Several times, yes. Many times.

BLACK: It's been undergoing renovation recently. Tell me about that.

ATKINSON: Yes. The building needed to be brought up to date with new kitchens and new heating systems. At the same time they clad the - re- cladded the outside of the building. We were assisting residents to get through that because they did the renovation with people still living in situ.

BLACK: This has been going on for some years now.

ATKINSON: A couple years.

BLACK: At significant cost.


BLACK: So the building itself from the '70s but recently renovated.


BLACK: Are you able to give us any information on the fire controller alert system within the building?

ATKINSON: We were told it had all been brought up to date and that certificates were issued. Now we have to ask and take a look again at exactly what has happened. At moment we need to be taking care of people. We still don't know where everybody is. So personally it's got to be to reunite families and find out what the casualties are.

And the second thing, which will be a major responsibility for the county today is to house people. Because people who live in that block, 125 families, have lost everything that they've got. So they're standing there homeless and penniless.

BLACK: One hundred twenty five families you say.


BLACK: Can you give us a sense of the sort of people who live there?

ATKINSON: It reflects the wonderful diverse nature of this area. So there's people from all over the world and people who work professionally. People who've always lived in the area. It is a very diverse and really quite wonderfully close community.

BLACK: You mentioned and I realize that there will no doubt be an investigation to determine the cause and we can't speculate too much. But you mentioned the cladding and a number of residents in the building have told us they believe the cladding was what fueled the fire, allowed it to move quickly between the floors. Do you have a theory on that at this time?

ATKINSON: No, I don't have a theory. You really need to ask the fire people that. And I suspect today they won't be able to give you an answer either. But this is something that needs to look, to be looked at urgently after we've taken care of people's immediate needs.

BLACK: As the man who represents this area and the people in that building give us a sense of what you're thinking and feeling today as we stand here and look at this incredible sight.

ATKINSON: It is utterly horrendous. In this day and age to have a building engulfed by flames. We've had fires in tower blocks before. We've never had anything like this before.

BLACK: Indeed. Robert Atkinson, thank you very much for joining us.


BLACK: Thank you very much. So Max, you see a building from the '70s, largely concrete, recently renovated. Many tens of billions of pounds we're told spent on that renovation, bringing it up to scratch inside and out.

And now this. And of course there will be an investigation to determine just how this was able to happen. You heard there from the councilor that they had received assurances that all the fire prevention and control measures were up to speed, had been certified and so forth.

And of course there is that point which has been brought up by so many residents here today. The nature of the cladding. The pictures that we've seen overnight show the fire racing up and down the side of the building at such incredible speed.

The people who live in the building, the people who live around it, they believe they saw that external cladding, some form of synthetic substance recently added to the building for aesthetic purpose that was what allowed the building -- as the fire, I should say to move so quickly across so many floors. Max, back to you.

FOSTER: That's the thing, isn't it? Phil, thank you very much indeed. We don't know how the fire started but a huge question about how it managed to spread so quickly when those certificates were recently issued and there should have been the sort of fire systems in place there.

Oren Liebermann has also been on the scene for hours now. Oren, just take us through what you saw when you arrived there in the early hours and at night.

LIEBERMANN: I'll backtrack into that just a moment but I do want to show you down the street here because we've had a number of firefighters and you can see at the end of the root just arrived. Some dozens as reinforcements here to the crews that have been working since 1 in the morning as well as a few fire trucks that pulled in a short time ago.

[03:34:59] That is appeared to be quite a large group of reinforcements just to get some help to these crews that have been fighting this fire that raged throughout the building.

When I arrived here, and now we'll take a look up towards what we see now of the building. When I arrived here there was smoke pouring out of the entire building as well as flames pouring out of most of the windows. Most of the windows appeared to have been blown out or broken in some other way.

And flames were actively coming out of them. And those that didn't have that you could see into the apartment and there you saw the flames.

Now you can see what's left of this building. The flames have largely died down. The smoke at this point just a fraction of what it was even just a couple of hours ago as the fire itself dissipates on the top half of the building. The hardest part to get to for firefighters.

But it has dissipated. It has dissipated quite dramatically over the last few hours. Still now you see what's left of this building. And the simple answer is not much. The entire facade of the building a deep dark brown or black destroyed by the fire that raged through so quickly and spread through this building so quickly.

Starting low as we've heard witnesses say and then spreading first around the building and then up the building and gutting basically what appears to be almost every floor and almost every apartment in this building. The smoke now just a fraction of what it was.

We can still see some flame in one of the windows. That might be hot spots flaring up. That's not uncommon in fires of this size and that might continue for few hours until firefighters were fully able to get it under control and put this fire out and then comes the question of why this start, how did it start, what lessons can be learn.

All of those are secondary now to the primary concern of putting fire out and then having emergency services both here and in hospitals dealing with the evacuees and as we just learned a short time ago from the London fire commissioner, Dany Cotton the victims here those who died in the fire.

We don't yet have a definitive number but we do know it is multiple victims, many people have died in this fire. We're waiting for another update from the London fire commissioner. It may come soon, it may still be quite a while but we'll certainly keep you updated here.

We know the fire itself has affected the surrounding area with some evacuations of nearby buildings. Road closures. The tube was affected, bus routes. This is a massive, massive fire. The London fire commissioner even saying in her 29 years with the London Fire Brigade she has never seen anything quite like this.

FOSTER: Well, there are some concerns on social media about the building collapsing, but we don't think there's anything in that, right?

LIEBERMANN: Could I ask you to repeat that question, Max? I didn't hear it clearly. FOSTER: What about the concerns that the building might collapse? It

doesn't seem as though the emergency services are concerned about that.

LIEBERMANN: That's a concern we have speculated about but nothing definitely came from the London fire commissioner. And judging by the, what we have seen, which is crews still moving towards the building instead of away from it, that doesn't appear to be a concern at this point.

I imagine it would have been something dealt with very quickly in terms of monitoring that concern and how the fire would have affected the structural integrity of the building and how sound the building itself is as firefighters were going in or around the fire.

It would have been I suspect a command center with commanders dealing with that exact concern. It does not appear to have hampered the efforts and it certainly hasn't stopped emergency crews from heading straight for that building down this road behind me and from other directions as well.

FOSTER: And we should point out that when you were called out it was the dead of night and people had been asleep. So the great fear is that the building was absolutely full at the time.

So as they try to account for the numbers, they're trying to account for who lived there. And they were largely families we understand. We heard 125 families are hopeless. We're not quite sure what casualties are involved there.

LIEBERMANN: We don't have definitive numbers yet. Certainly at that hour at 1 in the morning many families would have been here and would have been asleep as this fire started and then spread very quickly.

What we've waited for and we know there were evacuations, we know that having spoken to witnesses some of whom ran in to save friends and family members. We know that many people got out but we don't know first definitively how many people were in the building and then second just as importantly, how many were able to get out. That's an answer we're waiting for from the London fire commissioner.

And that of course ties into the question right at the top here, how many people died in this fire? A question we're still trying to answer.

Meanwhile, having spoken to the leader of the Kensington and Chelsea council we know that there are community centers helping out those families that are now effectively homeless. There can't be much left inside that building. And that's evident.

That's obviously just standing here and looking at it. So there are families that are now homeless that will need help. All of that is part of this emergency frankly, part of this disaster here in this apartment building that emergency services are trying to deal with as best they can at this point. And it's dynamic. It's firefighters here. It's the hospitals. It's the community

centers. And other support centers trying to get these families at least now immediately on their feet. And then it's the question of how many people died here and what will that be and what lessons can be learned.

All of that especially of hat lessons can be learned and what started this fire are questions that have not yet been asked yet because there are more pressing concerns at the moment.

[03:40:02] FOSTER: Yes. And how it spread so quickly as well. Oren, thank you. We're staying with this breaking news for you out of west London.

Up next the latest details, eyewitness accounts and the latest on the evacuations as well right here on CNN.


FOSTER: Let's get you the latest on the breaking news out of west London. The London fire brigade says people have died in a massive fire that completely engulfed a 24-storey apartment block in west London there.

Officials haven't confirmed how many fatalities but there were reports of people jumping from windows. They were certainly trying to get people's attention. We do know at least 50 people were rushed to hospital.

About 200 firefighters have been on the scene trying to get situation under control. Local officials say a major emergency plan has been activated and the A-4, a major road in west London, is closed in both directions because of the situation. It's still unclear what caused the fire or why it spread so quickly.

Phil, you're there on the ground. We're not going to find out what started it for some time but there's a huge amount of concern that it spread through the building in a matter of minutes.

BLACK: That's what residents and locals are telling us, Max. They're telling us about how quickly it spread from floor to floor. People are talking about the cladding on the exterior of the building, fueling the fire, allowing it to move at such a rapid pace.

We're hearing some terrible stories. This is a community in trauma this morning. There is no doubt. I'd like to talk to three I think very shocked members of this community now. Shireen (Ph), Shareefa (Ph), and Niles (Ph). Correct me if I'm wrong there, guys. First tell me how are you feeling this morning?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Devastated. Absolutely devastated.

BLACK: You live very close to that building, is that right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I live very close to this building. My daughter goes to the local school. We're all community activists. Very united community. We're in tatters. We really are.

BLACK: Tell me about your thoughts and feelings today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've not really processed everything that's happened. We've been out since about half 2 this morning just helping people in the local community, children, other people coming out the building. Just helping them with their clothes and other kind of stuff, water. I think right now like everyone else we're in shock and processing what's going on.

BLACK: Yes. Niles, your thoughts today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My thoughts today, you know, is that one of the people I know that lives in Grenfell is a man called Edward Dartham.

BLACK: So Edward lives in that tower?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Edward Dartham (Ph) runs a group called the Grenfell action group. House and action group. And basically, he warned the local authorities and everybody else that this was going to happen before it's happened.

[03:45:01] And people need to go and check this information. He wrote an article called "Playing with fire."

BLACK: We've been talking about this action group and it's working its concerns this morning on our air.


BLACK: What were their concerns about this building in particular?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About the possibility of fire breaking out quite easily. And many other issues. Because you know, this goes call to what is really going on in this area. The disparity between north Kensington and the rest of RBK and C. And how you know, those in positions of power and privilege view the local community who live in the city dwellings in north Kensington and how they deal with and respond to a situation like this.

Because as far as I'm concerned if this was a town hall on fire it would have been put out a long time ago and there would be water falling from the sky from whatever vehicle they had to bring to put that fire out. But down here in north Kensington it appears our lives are expendable as usual.

BLACK: You guys have been up through the night. You watched this unfold.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. BLACK: Tell me about some of the things you've seen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was at this place here, which is the -- I came here first. I couldn't really get the picture of the fire. So I moved over to a little bit further up on Lancaster Road and it was the whole building was engulfed in fire. It was a ball of fire. And everyone was standing back.

We wanted to go in and help, but we were restricted by the police, which is understandable. But you know, there's people that we know in there. There's families that we know. There's overcrowded families that are living in places like this. On top floors.

And you know, we're concerned for children who attend local schools, for the elderly, the disabled. Whether they were able to get out as well. You know, what services were sent out to support them or to get out of the building. That's a massive why we're there as well.

There's still people that don't know what's happening to people that's in the building. They haven't been able to contact them yet. So, you know, that's just...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We're looking for a woman called Kadija Abdullah (Ph). And stuff is just people like -- I'm seeing like grown men like crying. They can't find their children. They can't find their wives. I think, you know, it's a time like -- right now it's just very traumatic and people are trying to find missing family members that they've lost or blaming themselves.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, and it's not they're not to blame. It's the council and everybody else that's responsible for, you know, not putting safety measures in place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's also the speed at which the fire grew as well. We don't understand why the fire grew so quickly because with the work that have been done the fire should have been contained by a floor or two. But it spread within half an hour or an hour. The whole building was up in smoke.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we can't -- we could do nothing, and that's breaking our heart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Word on the street is the community tried to help, they were stopped from helping. Obviously, you know, health and safety and all those kind of things. But then the people were told to stay inside the building.

BLACK: All of this will be investigated, I'm sure. The authorities have confirmed that people have been killed. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People have died. Definitely. We knew that from

when we saw the whole building on fire. You know, and that's what -- we're just in tears.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Like we heard people shouting out the windows, asking for help. We saw people waving out from the windows. And you can't do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People who run out of the building without their children thinking they could go back in and were held back. You know, it's a sad time for north Kensington, Latimer Road today. I'm telling you that. It's a sad day.

BLACK: You saw people desperately trying to escape, screaming for help, is that right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We saw people jumping out of buildings.

BLACK: You saw people jumping.


BLACK: From how high?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, as high as the building goes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would say from about the seventh floor I definitely know somebody jumped out the seventh floor and I could see a silhouette of somebody on the 20th floor hanging for their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We're still waiting to hear about people from the 20th floor. Like there's a man called Moses there everyone wants know about who lives on the top floor. We haven't heard anything about yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to ask the world to send in donations in to, you know, north Kensington so that we can distribute it to the community and to those who need it and we'll set up a crowd funding page. That can be found for the Grenfell Tower on Facebook. So please do look out for that and send in your donations, you know. We need -- we need that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Serious questions need to be asked and answered by the local council authorities and emergency services.

BLACK: Indeed. Absolutely. All of this will be investigated, I'm sure. Guys, thank you very much. Thank you for sharing all of that with us this morning.

Max, as you can see, there's considerable anger. People asking questions, how this was able to happen.

[03:50:01] But overwhelmingly, the feeling is one of sorrow and trauma that something like this has happened in the midst of the community. Not only that, so many people watched it unfold. Watched people that needed help so desperately and simply weren't able to provide that help. Max.

FOSTER: Phil, thank you. The idea of people hanging from the 20th floor, people jumping out from lower floors horrific. Let's show you the scene across London right now because this wide shot we've got for you shows you the smoke billowing over west London.

You can see it across west London. I saw it from a railway some miles away coming in. But if we actually zoom in you can see that it's still very much on fire, this building. You can actually see straight through the building. You can see why local people are concerned about it collapsing.

The authorities don't aren't talking about it collapsing, but certainly going into that shot you can see the fire is raging. And this is a massive operation. It will be going on for some days.

We'll be following every detail for you. But certainly in terms of casualties we can assume they're all out of the building, the ones that survived at least.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. I want to update you on the breaking news from west London, where a massive fire completely engulfed this 24-storey apartment building overnight.

The fire commissioner says a number of people have died but she can't say exactly how many at this time. We do know 50 people have been taken to five hospitals with injuries. It's not clear right now how many residents might still be trapped inside that building or how many escaped.

The fire broke out before daybreak, just before 1 a.m., when most people inside would of course have been sleeping.

Right now there is a thick cloud of smoke billowing from the high- rise. No word yet on how that fire started. But it appears to be the worst one in the city since a fire back in 2009 killed six people in south London.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin joins us now from St. Mary's hospital in London. So Erin, as we've been reporting, we understand 50 people were taken to five hospitals across London. What more are you learning about them and about their injuries?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Rosemary, we're witnessing really a desperate scene here. Just a short while ago outside of St. Mary's hospital in London. A taxi cab driver drove by screaming out, asking for information about his uncle. He said that his uncle lived inside that building, he hadn't heard from him and he was desperate to figure out where he was.

He came here to St. Mary's hospital because this is one of five hospitals in the area treating the casualties from that horrific fire. That is just one of many desperate stories we're hearing out of this incident in the overnight into the early hours of the morning. Now in terms of what's happening at this hospital, we know in the

overnight hour according to a hospital spokesperson they declared a major incident, which means they brought in additional staff. We don't know exactly how many patients are being treated at this hospital.

[03:54:59] We do know that at least 50 patients in total have been brought to the hospitals in the area. We're still waiting for more information about the kinds of casualties that they're treating right now.

CHURCH: And Erin, how long before we understand how people are progressing, those people that were taken to the five different hospitals and of course the one that you're at there.

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, I mean, we're still waiting to hear. I was just speaking to the hospital spokesperson just a short while ago. She's working to get the information as well as you can imagine, Rosemary, when anything like this unfolds the amount of confusion that ensues as well as patients are being treated.

I know that really right now at this point the priority for the doctors at this and other hospitals is treating the patients that they have and then getting the information out after.

CHURCH: Because this is the problem. At this time as you mention that story of the taxi driver trying to find out more about his family member, and this is what people are wanting at this time.

There's a lot of anger. There's a lot of feeling that their community is not getting serviced, is not getting the information that they need. Of course it's frustrating and all of these services are trying to do the best they can.

MCLAUGHLIN: Absolutely. And just to give you a sense of the response to this, in the overnight hours we are getting some information about the number of medical staff that responded to the scene. A hundred medics working to respond to this incident including ambulance crews, advanced paramedics, advanced trauma teams from the air ambulance services, as well as a hazardous area response team because remember, the conditions there at that building are hazardous at that time.

So it's a number of complicating factors that emergency services are having to deal with in addition to trying to save as many people as possible and getting them the treatment they need.

CHURCH: Yes. It is certainly a very difficult situation for all services, for those at the hospital, for the fire brigade, and all the authorities there who've been trying to respond to this devastating fire there at this 24-storey building in London.

Many thanks to you, Erin McLaughlin, standing by at St. Mary's hospital in London. Do stay with CNN as we continue to follow this breaking news story.

I'm Rosemary Church. Much more with our Max Foster in London after this short break. [04:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)