'I saw families screaming': Witnesses recount London high-rise inferno as casualties mount


A horror unfolded in London on Wednesday as a blaze ripped through a high-rise more quickly than some could escape.

Witnesses say they watched the fire engulf the lower floors of the 27-floor Grenfell Tower first before swifly climbing its sides, as some trapped residents gazed helplessly out their windows at frozen onlookers below.

Read: Cops Hunting Arsonist Who Set Blaze That Left 2 Little Girls and a Baby Dead: Reports

"It was horrific. I saw families screaming, people looking like they wanted to jump out," local resident Yousef Serroukh, 18, told reporters.

Photos from the scene:

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Grenfell apartment tower fire in London
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Grenfell apartment tower fire in London
Flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in the Grenfell Tower apartment block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
TOPSHOT - Fire engulfs Grenfell Tower, a residential tower block on June 14, 2017 in west London. The massive fire ripped through the 27-storey apartment block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday, trapping residents inside as 200 firefighters battled the blaze. Police and fire services attempted to evacuate the concrete block and said 'a number of people are being treated for a range of injuries', including at least two for smoke inhalation. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Flames and smoke engulf Grenfell Tower, a residential block on June 14, 2017 in west London. The massive fire ripped through the 27-storey apartment block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday, trapping residents inside as 200 firefighters battled the blaze. Police and fire services attempted to evacuate the concrete block and said 'a number of people are being treated for a range of injuries', including at least two for smoke inhalation. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the emergency services are parked by Grenfell Tower, a residential block which was engulfed by a huge fire on June 14, 2017 in west London. The massive fire ripped through the 27-storey apartment block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday, trapping residents inside as 200 firefighters battled the blaze. Police and fire services attempted to evacuate the concrete block and said 'a number of people are being treated for a range of injuries', including at least two for smoke inhalation. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Local residents watch smoke billow from Grenfell Tower, a residential block on June 14, 2017 in west London. The massive fire ripped through the 27-storey apartment block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday, trapping residents inside as 200 firefighters battled the blaze. Police and fire services attempted to evacuate the concrete block and said 'a number of people are being treated for a range of injuries', including at least two for smoke inhalation. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14: Smoke rises after a huge fire engulfed the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London in the early hours of this morning on June 14, 2017 in London, England. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has declared the fire a major incident as more than 200 firefighters are still tackling the blaze while at least 50 people are receiving hospital treatment. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 14: A fire rages through a residential tower block, Grenfell Tower, with the entire building engulfed in flames on June 14, 2017 in Kensington, West London, England. More than 200 firefighters are attending the incident and there are reports of people trapped inside. No figures are available as to casualties. PHOTOGRAPH BY Paul Davey / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Paul Davey / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14: Smoke rises from the burning 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London on June 14, 2017 in London, England. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has declared the fire a major incident as more than 200 firefighters are still tackling the blaze while at least 50 people are receiving hospital treatment. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14: A photographer takes photos as smoke continues to rise from the building after a huge fire engulfed the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London in the early hours of this morning on June 14, 2017 in London, England. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has declared the fire a major incident as more than 200 firefighters are still tackling the blaze while at least 50 people are receiving hospital treatment. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14: A man looks distressed as he speaks to a fire fighter after a huge fire engulfed the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London in the early hours of this morning on June 14, 2017 in London, England. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has declared the fire a major incident as more than 200 firefighters are still tackling the blaze, while at least 50 people are receiving hospital treatment. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 14: Evacuated residents wait o the pavement near the scene after a fire raged through a residential tower block, Grenfell Tower, with the entire building engulfed in flames on June 14, 2017 in Kensington, West London, England. More than 200 firefighters are attending the incident and there are reports of people trapped inside. No figures are available as to casualties. PHOTOGRAPH BY Paul Davey / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Paul Davey / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Smoke billows from a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14: Smoke rises from the building after a huge fire engulfed the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London in the early hours of this morning on June 14, 2017 in London, England. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has declared the fire a major incident as more than 200 firefighters are still tackling the blaze while at least 50 people are receiving hospital treatment (Photo by Kate Green/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14: Fire fighters tackle the building after a huge fire engulfed the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London in the early hours of this morning on June 14, 2017 in London, England. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has declared the fire a major incident as more than 200 firefighters are still tackling the blaze while at least 50 people are receiving hospital treatment. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Local residents watch as Grenfell Tower is engulfed by fire on June 14, 2017 in west London. The massive fire ripped through the 27-storey apartment block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday, trapping residents inside as 200 firefighters battled the blaze. Police and fire services attempted to evacuate the concrete block and said 'a number of people are being treated for a range of injuries', including at least two for smoke inhalation. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Two men hug within the security cordon as Grenfell Tower is engulfed by fire on June 14, 2017 in west London. The massive fire ripped through the 27-storey apartment block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday, trapping residents inside as 200 firefighters battled the blaze. Police and fire services attempted to evacuate the concrete block and said 'a number of people are being treated for a range of injuries', including at least two for smoke inhalation. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters stand amid debris in a childrens playground near a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Two women sit on the grass after a tower block was severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
A firefighter directs a jet of water at a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Smoke billows from a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Emergency fire services tackle a blaze at Grenfell Tower near Notting Hill on 14th June 2017 in West London, United Kingdom. The huge fire engulfed the tower block, trapping many people in their homes. A number of fatalities are reported. The block of flats in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea,�billowed large plumes of smoke way above the capital after the blaze broke out in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Londoners came out on the streets to help, offer food and water, support and assistance to those who had lost their homes or didnt know the whereabouts of their friends and family. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
A firefighter directs a jet of water at a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Water and other drinks are laid out near a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Flames leap from a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
A man comforts a boy after a tower block was severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Firefighters stand amid debris in a childrens playground near a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
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Serroukh's experience mirrored that of many witnesses to the fire in North Kensington, where firefighters fought tirelessly to beat back the flames that broke out sometime around 1 a.m.

"We saw people looking out the window screaming 'help, help.' Now all those windows, those people are literally gone," one witness recalled.

While fire personnel arrived within minutes of the first reports of the blaze, London's fire commissioner says they weren't able to save some of those who couldn't get out.

"There have been a number of fatalities. I cannot confirm the number at this time," Dany Cotton said as early counts of fatalities were reported at no fewer than six.

Dozens of injured residents were rushed to London hospitals as officials warned the process of recovering the dead could be a long one.

Firefighters continued to make rescues many hours after the blaze, which was put out around dawn. Even then, a billowing cloud of smoke could be seen for miles.

Officials did not immediately know what caused the blaze.

Grenfell Tower recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation, with many of its 120 apartments having been outfitted with new windows.

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While many witnesses seemed sure the fire seemed to grow along the outside of the tower, it was not clear whether the building's facelift was related.

Emergency shelters now been set up in the area for those with nowhere to go.

Watch: Arsonist Accidentally Catches Fire, Causing More Damage To Himself Than Business

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