Two Portuguese children are among the mounting victims of the horrific tower block fire that began late last night, devastating a close-knit multi-racial West London community in UK, and killing at least 12.
The children who have not yet been named are in hospital where they were initially described as having “a reserved prognosis”.
Updated reports have pronounced them “free from danger” though they continue under medical observation.
The children are among a number of Portuguese who were living in Grenfell Tower, reports Lusa.
They are girls, aged 11 and 13.
Grenfell Tower became a flaming beacon across the London skyline late last night following what has been described as the explosion of a fridge on the fourth floor.
The Portuguese children’s parents were also assisted by rescue teams, but are said to be fine.
A source of the Secretary of State for the Communities reports that three Portuguese families lived in the block as well as two other nationals.
All are reported to have escaped with their lives, though they have lost their homes and almost all their possessions.
Stories of the fire, and how residents were seen jumping from high windows, have been beaming across television channels this morning, with the number of fatalities almost certain to increase.
This has been an ‘unprecedented’ incident, said fire chief Danny Cotton – giving numbers of the injured as being at least 70 people, 20 of them on the critical list.
The ensuing fallout is certain to reverberate for days.
First, there is the huge issue of rehousing hundreds of families from the blackened shell of the 24-storey block. But then there will be the inquiry of how the blaze could have spread so quickly and with such devastating effect. Locals have already been telling reporters about ‘gas pipes along the stairways’.
Even now, over 12 hours since firefighters reached the scene, Grenfell Tower is still smouldering.
4.30 pm and the stories of Portuguese who escaped with their families from the burning block suggest ‘mismanagement’ of the situation will quickly become a major issue.
Aside from a report in the Guardian that claims the block’s Grenfell Action Group had warned of “dangerous living conditions” – affirming last year that “it is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the Kensingston and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation.” – Portuguese media has been hearing from nationals who lived in the block that the incident was poorly managed in its early stages.
Miguel Alves, who lived on the 13th floor with his wife and grown-up children (son, 20, daughter 18), was coming home from a night out when the fire had already taken hold.
He told Lusa news agency that, approaching the building, there was nothing to suggest at this point that there was anything wrong.
He pressed the button for the 13th floor as other two people entered, pressing the button for the 4th.
When the lift doors opened, the group realised the 4th floor was full of smoke.
Alves said he told his wife to go back downstairs as he rushed upstairs to the couple’s apartment to collect their children.
The family are all safe, and Alves got out of the building with his son and daughter “without any problems”, he said.
Lusa reports that the father-of-two who has been living in UK since 1998 is part of the “commission of residents” who some time ago alerted the council to security problems at Grenfell Tower, “namely the risk of fire”.
Refurbishment works a few years ago involved “highly inflammable exterior cladding”, he said.
Meantime, extraordinary stories of survival have emerged: a baby survived being ‘thrown from a ninth or 10th floor window” into the arms of a waiting man, while a five year old made it out alive after his desperate mother (who may have died in the blaze) threw him from a “5th or 6th floor window” in a makeshift parachute.
The little boy suffered “some injuries and broken bones” an eye-witness told reporters, but he is alive.