London's Metropolitan Police have confirmed that at least 12 people have died in the massive block fire that consumed Grenfell Tower early Wednesday morning. First responders and rescue teams are expecting the number of fatalities to rise. Six hospitals are currently treating 78 victims, 18 of whom are in critical condition. Witnesses said that they saw people leaping from the blazing windows of the 24-story tower. There was no fire alarm nor central sprinkler system, leaving unsuspecting victims trapped inside the burning tower. Witness James Wood, 32, said he saw a woman trapped on the 13th floor. She was holding her baby out of the window and dropped it when the rescue seemed futile.

Another witness informed Britain's Associated Press that an infant dropped from mid-way up the building was caught by an onlooker.

Renovations

Grenfell Tower is one of several high rises on the block that has undergone recent renovations. Built in the 1970s, the block was ready for refurbishments and improvements to the "insulated exterior cladding" and the "smoke/fire safety and ventilation works." The London Fire Brigade said that this fire was "very unusual" due to the fact that it appeared to have spread around the exterior of the building. Witnesses said the building "burned like paper." Other towers nearby have undergone the same renovations and are currently being inspected for any issues with the exterior cladding. Harley Facades Limited, the company that installed the insulated exterior cladding, claims that they are not aware of any link between the installation and the fire.

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“It appears that the external cladding has significantly contributed to the spread of fire at Grenfell Tower,” said Angus Law, an expert with the Building Research Establishment Center for Fire Safety Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. The cladding panels are made up of aluminum composite materials and are commonly used in refurbishment projects. Harley Facades Limited did not manufacture the product.

The Neighborhood

It was estimated that between 400 and 500 residents lived in Grenfell Tower before the blaze broke out. The borough area is currently looking for places for the residents to stay. Notting Hill Methodist Church has received thousands of donations for the victims and their families. The church is currently flooded with donated clothing, blankets, food, and water. Investigators still say that it is too early to speculate the cause of the fire, but residents had previously expressed concerns for the safety of the building. First responders included 40 fire trucks and 200 firefighters, who battled the flames for over 11 hours. The investigation is ongoing. Terrorism is not suspected.