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Six die in London tower block fire

3 min

Six people, including a newborn baby, have died in a massive fire at a tower block in London, the city's emergency services said. Twelve more people were taken to the hospital, many suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation.

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AFP - Six people including a newborn baby died Friday in a massive fire at a tower block in London, the city's emergency services said.

"There were six fatalities -- three adults and three children," a London Fire Brigade spokesman said after the blaze in Camberwell, south London.

Witnesses gave distressing accounts of how those trapped by the fire pressed their faces up against the windows and screamed as they battled to escape the flames and smoke.

The Metropolitan Police said that those who died were a three week old baby, two children aged about six and seven, a woman in her 30s and two other adults.

A further 12 people were taken to hospital, many suffering the effects of smoke inhalation.

Some 30 people who had been in "immediate peril" trapped inside were rescued safely, the fire service said, adding the blaze was under control and there were no reports of people still in the block.

Around 100 firefighters were sent to the scene of the fire, which started on the fourth floor of the local authority-owned block and spread to the 11th.

Witnesses spoke of harrowing scenes as the fire, which was reported just before 4:30 pm (1530 GMT), took hold.

"There were kids screaming, there was all sorts of stuff going on," Rob Atthill told BBC television.

"The people I was with, they climbed on the roof to see what was happening and they could see faces of people in the windows, people were trying to smash windows, it didn't look very good."

Michael Thompson, 17, who lives in the tower block, added: "There was a big bang that sounded like an explosion.

"People were screaming. I heard people shouting: 'Fire, fire'.

"I called 999 (Britain's emergency telephone number) when I saw the flames and they said they were already on their way. I could smell the smoke from inside my flat so I closed the windows.

"This black smoke was pouring out of the windows."

Paul Glenny, a firefighter who battled the blaze, said: "I've been in the job for 30 years, and I've never seen anything like it.

"The hot weather and the fact that people's windows were open made the fire what it was."

An investigation will now be held into the cause of the blaze, although the fire service has warned it could take "weeks if not months" to find out what happened.

"It is too early to say what led to the fire and police officers are working with the London Fire Brigade investigation team to establish the cause of the fire," the Metropolitan Police said.

The bodies of three people were found at the scene and three others died later in hospital. Uninjured survivors were being taken to an emergency centre set up at a nearby church hall.

The 1960s building contains 108 flats and is owned and managed by the local council, with residents living there on a leasehold or tenant basis.

The local lawmaker for the area, Harriet Harman -- deputy leader of Britain's ruling Labour party -- said it was a "very tragic situation".

"I have been keeping number 10 (Downing Street) informed and I am sure the prime minister (Gordon Brown) will be thanking the emergency services shortly," she added.

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