London apartment fire: Emotional scenes as residents grapple with loss

Emotions are palpable outside the London block of flats that were the site of at least 12 deaths following a huge fire that raged through the building, trapping people in the upper floors.

Many locals could only watch in horror as the blaze ripped through 24-storey Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, west London. There are grave fears for residents of the top floors.

"[There are some] very upset residents around here, as you can imagine," Newshub Europe Correspondent Tova O'Brien explained as a resident could be heard shouting in the back of a live cross on Thursday morning.

"This is a neighbourhood that has just been thrown into complete chaos at 1 o'clock. That was someone from this neighbourhood, perhaps, who was upset about having so much media around, and possibly upset about the situation in general, as you can imagine."

Terrifying scenes as fire ripped through the apartment block.
Terrifying scenes as fire ripped through the apartment block.

At least 68 people were hospitalised, with 18 in a critical condition, as a result of the fire. The death toll is expected to rise as emergency services reach the upper floors of the unstable structure.

Grenfell Tower apartment block was home to about 600 people, many of whom were likely at home in bed when the fire started just before 1am (local time).

Witnesses described people screaming for help as smoke filled the apartment block. Others told of people throwing their children out the windows in an attempt to save them from the fire.

Serious questions have been raised about the state of the building, with a resident group rasing complaints about faulty fire extinguishers and a lack of emergency exits in 2013.

The list of potentially catastrophic problems with the building goes on, with residents saying no fire alarms went off, politicians blaming a lack of regulation requiring sprinkler systems, and others saying the apartment had recently been refitted with a flammable cladding product blamed for up to a dozen high-rise fires over the last 10 years.