Six killed after fire sweeps through London tower block

Author: By Tom Peck and Paul Bignell

Fire services rescued 30 people from the building, 16 of whom were taken to hospital. The six deaths were confirmed last night by London Fire Brigade Deputy Assistant Commissioner Tim Chidgey.

The blaze started on the fourth floor of Lakanal House on Havil Street and rose through several storeys of the residential building.

Over 100 firefighters and 18 fire engines were sent to the scene. Firefighters wore specialist breathing apparatus as they searched the building, bringing out over 30 people.

A Fire Brigade spokesperson said last night: “A number of rescues have been carried out in extremely difficult circumstances and fire crews equipped with extended duration breathing apparatus are working very hard to reach those still affected and to carry out an exhaustive search of the building.”

Nine of those rescued were sent to King’s College Hospital in Denmark Hill, the others to St Thomas’s in Westminster and Lewisham Hospital. A spokesman for the London Ambulance Service said last night: “We were called at 4.25pm today to reports of a fire on Havil Street. We sent 16 ambulance crews … The first of our staff arrived within four minutes.”

One eyewitness, a Havil Street resident giving his name as Seyi, 27, said: “The fire was really really bad. The firemen were struggling to put it out. I saw a fireman bring out a baby and a woman. They were performing CPR on the baby, and the mother was unconscious.

“I could see people on the eleventh floor shouting for help.”

Another local resident, Sarah Gresty, said she could see a column of flames, and smoke in flats, across a number of floors. “The fire was going in quite a few flats.” George Maddox, who also lives nearby, told BBC News: “The fire engines arrived very promptly, but I think the height of the block was a problem. There seemed to be one window and one room ablaze when the fire brigade got there.”

Southwark Council leader Nick Stanton said: “This is a terrible thing to have happened and my thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family of the children who have died and those people affected by this fire.”

The fire was brought under control at around 8.30pm, as the rescue operation continued. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Tim Chidgey said: “The operation will be ongoing throughout the night and the building will be quite unsafe.

He confirmed that the 30 people who were rescued all exited the building down the main stairwell. The investigation into the cause of the blaze will not take place until the building is completely safe to enter.

Lakanal House was where 17-year-old Shola Agora was murdered in 2000, nine days before 10-year-old Damilola Taylor was murdered on the same Sceaux Gardens Estate.

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