Fire engulfed a high-rise block of apartments in central London on Wednesday, killing at least six people and injuring 74. Some residents asleep inside were trapped in the inferno. The causes of the fire, one of the biggest in London in memory, were not immediately known.
Here are some details on the block’s history.
Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey apartment block in North Kensington, West London, was completed in 1974. It originally contained 120 apartments, though seven more were added in refurbishment. It is managed by Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) on behalf of Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council. A 8.7 million pound ($11 million) refurbishment of the block was carried out by construction company Rydon and completed in July 2016. It included new external cladding, replacement windows and curtain wall facades, according to Rydon’s website.
A new communal heating system and a bespoke smoke extraction and ventilation system were also installed. Rydon said it was shocked to hear of the devastating fire and its immediate thoughts were with those affected. The company said its refurbishment of the building met all required building control, fire regulation and health & safety standards. “We will cooperate with the relevant authorities and emergency services and fully support their enquiries into the causes of this fire at the appropriate time,” the company said in a statement.
The cladding work was carried out by Harley Facades in a contract valued at 2.6 million pounds, according to its website. A spokesman for Harley said the company could not comment at this stage because it did not have information about the fire. The Grenfell Action Group, set up in 2010 to oppose the redevelopment of a nearby green space, said it had warned repeatedly about the 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,” the group said on its website on Wednesday. KCTMO had told tower residents to “stay put” in their apartments in the event of a fire, unless the fire was in their home or in the hallway outside. “This is because Grenfell was designed according to rigorous fire safety standards,” KCTMO said in a newsletter to residents in July 2014. “Also, the new front doors for each flat can withstand a fire for up to 30 minutes, which gives plenty of time for the fire brigade to arrive.”