I learned of this only just now, but around 1AM, London time (it's close to 8AM there now), a 27-story apartment building named Grenfell Tower caught on fire and became engulfed in a massive conflagration. Eyewitness reports are, understandably, scattered and confused. There's no death toll yet, nor an injury count, nor any in-depth speculation as to the cause of the fire (I know what some will speculate, and I advise caution before jumping to conclusions). I am, of course, as curious to know the death and injury toll as much as anyone else, but what I'd really like to know is how fast the fire spread. An activist organization called the Grenfell Action Group posted an eerily prescient article last year, accusing the apartment's management of ruling over a fire trap. From that article:
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 KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders. We believe that the KCTMO are an evil, unprincipled, mini-mafia who have no business to be charged with the responsibility of looking after the every day management of large scale social housing estates and that their sordid collusion with the RBKC Council is a recipe for a future major disaster.
Though written in an angry tone, the article seems utterly apropos, given this disaster, and cannot be dismissed as wild-eyed sputtering.
Keep on watching the news for more updates. It'll probably be a few days before we have solid numbers, reliable eye-witness testimony, and a coherent narrative.
ADDENDUM: "It went up in 15 minutes," according to one witness. The article, which is being updated frequently, currently says "scores feared dead." Depressing.
ADDENDUM 2: Grenfell Tower is located 2 km northwest of Kensington Palace, west London.