Thirty people have died and many more are missing after a huge fire engulfed a west London tower block.

While some residents of Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey building in north Kensington, escaped as the fire took hold on 14 June, others were trapped inside, eyewitnesses said. A number of injured remain in hospital and emergency services have begun the search for bodies.

Here’s a visual guide to what happened that night.

The blaze took hold quickly

Image copyright PA

Emergency services were called to the fire at the block of flats in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea just before 01:00 BST on Wednesday 14 June. It is believed to have started on the fourth floor and spread quickly.

A total of 65 people were rescued from the building by firefighters.

The blaze was not under control until 01:14 BST on Thursday – 24 hours later.

The building was left in ruin

The tower, part of the Lancaster West Estate, a social housing complex of almost 1,000 homes in West London, was left extensively damaged.

All four facades were affected.

Emergency services are continuing the search for bodies, but the aftermath is so devastating police have said some victims may never be identified.

People have been leaving hand-written messages on a wall of condolence.

Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a full public inquiry into the blaze, while police have launched a criminal investigation.

The tower was built in the 1970s, but recently renovated

Grenfell Tower was built in 1974 by Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council.

An £8.6m refurbishment – part of a wider transformation of the estate – was completed by Rydon Construction in May last year. Work included new exterior cladding, replacement windows and a communal heating system.

The bottom four floors were also remodelled, creating seven additional homes and improvements to communal facilities.

There are now 127 flats across 21 residential floors and three levels of mixed use.

The tower is managed by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) on behalf of the council.

Newly-installed cladding is being scrutinised

Fire safety experts have pointed to cladding on the building as a possible reason the blaze spread so quickly.

Footage has shown the fire travelling up one side of the building, before engulfing the entire block.

New cladding was fitted as part of a £8.6m refurbishment of the tower, completed in May last year.

The cladding had a metal outer coating and an expanded foam interior. This polyethylene – or plastic – core is less fireproof than other alternatives.

However, even this type of cladding – when properly fitted and with its polyethylene insulation expertly encapsulated – should resist fire, the Fire Protection Association (FPA), the UK’s national fire safety organisation, said.

Some exterior cladding can create cavities which, in some cases, can cause what’s known as “a chimney effect”, drawing flames up the cavity if there are no fire barriers.

Ray Bailey, managing director at Harley Facades Limited, which installed the cladding, said: “At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.”

Rydon, the contractor responsible for the renovation of the tower, said its work “met all required building control, fire regulation, and health and safety standards”.

It later issued a new statement, removing the previous mention of the building meeting fire regulation standards, instead saying the project met “all required building regulations”.

The tower is in an area with a big gap between rich and poor

In the aftermath of the fire, residents told the BBC how they felt ignored by the authorities and pushed out by affluent outsiders.

On Friday, anger over the response to the disaster led to a protest at the town hall in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

The borough is one of the richest in the country. The average salary is £123,000: the highest in the UK.

But the median average – the midpoint of all salaries in the area – is £32,700. No other local authority in the country has such a large gap between these two averages, pointing to a huge contrast between high and low earners.

There is a similarly large gap when measuring the total income for people in the area. The average is £158,000, but the median is £38,700. Again, no other local authority in the UK reports such a difference.

Data sources: Department for Communities and Local Government, the Office for National Statistics, and Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs.


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