Fire razes block of flats in London

People died in a massive fire that raced through a high-rise apartment building in west London early on Wednesday, London's fire commissioner said, though she could not say how many.

Flumes of black and gray smoke were rising high into the air over London hours after the blaze was sparked.

Firefighters in the English capital have been battling the spectacular fire in a 27-storey apartment building for several hours. Currently, there are 40 fire engines and 200 firefighters working on the scene.

Footage on social media showed the building engulfed in fire, with huge flames stretching over a number of floors.

Councilor Nick Paget-Brown, who represents the area in which Grenfell Tower is located, said the tower block contains some 120 individual apartments, many of which house young families, meaning the number of people trapped by the blaze could run into the hundreds.

Police were also clearing out nearby buildings because of fears about falling debris and shut down a section of the A40 highway - a normally busy thoroughfare into London.

The cause of the fire remains unknown.

One witness, Reo, told Sky News: "I was in my kitchen and heard smoke alarms".

More than 200 firefighters have been tackling the inferno which consumed nearly the entire building near White City, west London.

He says firefighters wearing breathing apparatus are working extremely hard in very difficult conditions to tackle the fire.

The London Fire Brigade said the fire had engulfed all floors from the second to the top of the building on the Lancaster West Estate in West London.

"I was just screaming at people: "Get out, get out" and they were screaming back at me: "We can't, the corridors are full of smoke", he told BBC Radio. In 2016, residents organisation Grenfell Action Group claimed that the tower had a "serious health and safety issue".

"ALL OUR WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time", the group said in a blog post on Wednesday, in which it linked to recent posts that flagged the authorities about the building's infrastructural risks.

"I'm 100 meters away and I'm absolutely covered in ash", eyewitness George Clarke told the BBC. "I think I saw people clinging to the outside of the building trying to climb down the building - I mean, it's just horrific".

One neighbour said he saw people jumping from up to 15 floors up to escape the fire, while there were screams of joy and a relief as a five-year-old girl was pulled from the flames by emergency services.

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