QUESTIONS are being raised about what caused a London apartment block to turn into a blazing deathtrap, as witnesses reveal residents were advised to "stay put".

At least 12 people died on Wednesday when Grenfell Tower became engulfed in flames in a fire described by London's Fire Commissioner as "completely unprecedented".

Witnesses reported seeing a baby thrown out a window to safety to avoid the horror inside. As many gathered outside evacuation centres to await news of loved ones, they reported people following official advice to stay inside, unaware of the true extent of the danger unfolding.

One resident who said he and his neighbours had complained about the building's safety for years said he considered the disaster "mass murder".

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Local media is reporting "nobody on the top three floors survived", crediting the claim to a local community leader.

Authorities and family members are desperately searching hospitals and the surrounding areas for missing relatives as the death toll is expected to rise.

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One family has had no news of their three young girls who were believed to be trapped in the building. Relatives said two sisters, Mirna, Fatima and Zainnb, along with two other family members had been in the building and had not been heard from.

The damaged remains of a fire at Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey apartment block in North Kensington, London, Britain.
The damaged remains of a fire at Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey apartment block in North Kensington, London, Britain.

Ahmed Chellah told news.com.au his brother-in-law and his wife were inside with their three children when the fire broke out.

"The last time I spoke with them was at 1.45. She seemed calm," he said of his relative.

"Her husband was talking with emergency services. She told me they asked her to put towels around the doors. She sounded calm."

However, he spoke to her again at 2.15am and she said "smoke was coming into the flat".

"That was the last time I heard from her," he said. "Whether the emergency services got to them and have taken them to hospital, I don't know."

Grenfell Tower advised residents to stay inside their homes in the case of a fire. Picture: Residents Action Group
Grenfell Tower advised residents to stay inside their homes in the case of a fire. Picture: Residents Action Group

He said many of those inside shouted back "We've been told to stay", following official management advice that says people should "stay put" unless the fire is affecting their own property.

"They couldn't see it spreading," he said.

Former resident David Collins said he had lived in the block for two and a half years and had never experienced an evacuation drill during that time. He also said emergency lighting in stairwells was not working properly.

The high-rise condominium in London in flames.
The high-rise condominium in London in flames. Kyodo / AAP

Shortly after news of Wednesday's tragedy broke, it claimed: "Regular readers of this blog will know that we have posted numerous warnings in recent years about the very poor fire safety standards at Grenfell Tower.

"ALL OUR WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time."

Forensic teams move a body near the high rise apartment block that suffered a deadly fire in London. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Forensic teams move a body near the high rise apartment block that suffered a deadly fire in London. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Rydon construction, which recently refurbished the block in an $11 million job to modernise the exterior, said new cladding and windows "met all required building control, fire regulation, and health and safety standards."

The company said it would not be commenting further "given the ongoing nature of the incident and the tragic events overnight".

Pete Griffiths, a spokesman for the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, told the Associated Press: "I can't comment. We're getting hundreds of requests for comments." The group issued a statement saying it was focused on helping residents.

News Corp Australia


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