London Fire
Smoke billows as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. Reuters/Toby Melville

At least 12 have died in the West London fire that consumed a residential building on Wednesday, according to police. Firefighters have so far rescued over 70 people, with 18 people in critical condition and many more unaccounted for.

Police have warned that they were not expecting to see more survivors in the 24-storey housing block, which had 127 flats housing hundreds of families. More than 200 firefighters and 40 fire engines were deployed to control the fire that started before 1 a.m. local time. More than 16 hours later, the crews continued to damp down pockets of fire in the building.

“This is an unprecedented situation, with a major fire that has affected all floors of this 24-storey building, from the second floor up. In my 29 years with London Fire Brigarde, I have never seen a fire of this nature,” North Kensington London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said in a statement. He continued, “London Ambulance Service have confirmed 68 people have been taken to six hospitals and a further 10 people have self presented. I am sad to confirm that we now know that there have been a number of fatalities and our thoughts are with all those who have been affected by this terrible incident.”

Cotton said the cause of the fire is still unknown. There will be investigation on the matter.

Desperate acts of survival

Eyewitnesses said there were trapped residents that came to the window in a bid to find a way to safely get their children out of the building. Witness Samira Lamrani told the Press Association that a woman in the building gestured to the crowd below that she was about to drop her baby from “the ninth or 10th floor.” A man managed to catch the baby.

Grenfell Tower resident Paul Munakr, who managed to escape from his seventh floor flat, told the BBC that he was alerted to the fire by the people on the street shouting “don’t jump, don’t jump,” not by fire alarms. He commended the “truly amazing” firefighters for getting as many people out of the building as possible.

Another resident, Michael Paramasivan, said he ignored official advice to stay in their homes. He lives on the seventh floor with his girlfriend and young daughter.

“If we had stayed in that flat, we would’ve perished,” he said. “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.”

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council had placed 44 household in emergency accommodation. A rest centre at Westway Sports Centre has also been set up for those unable to return to their homes.

Fire risk building

The Grenfell Tower underwent an £8.6 million (AU$14.47 million) renovation last year. Before and during the refurbishment, the Grenfell Action Group said that the building was a fire risk, warning residents that the site access for emergency vehicles was “severely restricted.”

As the BBC reports, construction firm Rydon, which carried out the refurbishment, originally stated that the work “met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards.” Its more recent statement now removes mention of meeting fire regulation standards, and instead says it met “all required building regulations.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who returned to Downing Street Wednesday after visiting French President Emmanuel Macron, promised a “proper investigation” into the incident. “Once the scene is secured, once the recovery is complete, then an investigation will take place into the course of the fire and if there are any lessons to be learned,” she said.

Read more: London fire: People trapped as huge blaze engulfs residential tower