Woman rescued from fire at high-rise block of flats and offices in east London

A woman was rescued after fire broke out in a high-rise block of flats and offices in east London.

London Fire Brigade said it was called to a blaze on the 17th floor of the 21-storey the Relay Building in Whitechapel High Street shortly before 4pm.

Twenty fire engines and 125 firefighters were sent to the scene.

Station commander Chris Jenner, who was at the scene, said: “This was a dynamic and visible fire with our 999 control officers taking more than 50 calls in the early stages.

“A woman was trapped by the nature of the fire on the 17th floor. She was given fire survival advice by control officers until firefighters located her. Fire crews used a fire escape hood to help lead the woman to safety via the internal staircase.

“Around 60 people evacuated the building with others remaining in their unaffected flats.

“We mobilized a 64 meter turntable ladder to the scene. This is the tallest firefighting ladder in Europe and allowed us to get water onto the fire from outside the building.

“The professionalism, hard work and quick actions of control officers and firefighters limited the damage to the block and prevented serious injuries.”

He said the fire was under control at 7.07pm, and its cause was being investigated.

(David Zambrana/PA)

(AP Mean)

London Ambulance Service took one patient to hospital, and crews checked a small number of people at the scene.

Footage from the scene showed bright orange flames burning through a floor of the building as debris falls off the side.

Road closures were in place, with the AA stating that the A11 Whitechapel High Street was closed both ways from A13 Commercial Road to Old Castle Street. Commercial Road was also closed, it adds.

Lynn Ling, a London School of Economics student from China – who lives on the 20th floor with her husband Yuri, said the whole incident has been “very scary”.

Ms Ling, who was wearing a silver security blanket because she forgot her coat in the scramble to evacuate, told the PA news agency she was alerted to the fire by a friend who FaceTimed her from the street at about 4:30pm.

She said: “I did not hear an alarm. I think there was a fire alarm on the ground floor but I could not hear it clearly on the 20th.

“I went out of my door but I found there was smoke in the corridor so I went downstairs.

“I forgot to take my coat. It was very scary.”

(Victoria Jones/PA)

(PA Wire)

She added that a fireman on the 19th floor was knocking on people’s doors to tell them to leave.

“He said: ‘Don’t be scared’,” she added.

“They were trying to protect us. He was nice.”

The 25-year-old said when she was on her way down, a group of firemen “were about to go upstairs”.

Ms Ling said she did not know what had started the fire, and added that she was “very worried” about their possessions.

Her husband said they are not sure they will get back into their flat tonight and will stay with their friend.

London Ambulance Service advised people in Whitechapel to keep their windows closed and stay indoors as fire crews battle the blaze.

Fire crews are seen tending to the blaze in Whitechapel (Victoria Jones/PA)

(PA Wire)

A spokesperson said: “We were called at 4:07pm today to reports of a fire at a high-rise building on Whitechapel High Street.

“We sit an ambulance crew, an incident response officer, a team leader in a fast response car and members of our hazardous area response team.

“We are working closely with our emergency service colleagues, more updates to follow.

“If you are in the local area, please try and stay indoors and keep windows and doors closed.”

London Major Sadiq Khan said he was in “close contact” with London Fire Brigade’s Commissioner Andy Roe.

According to property developer Hondo Enterprises, which sold the building in 2018 and is no longer involved with the property, it is a 22-storey mixed use development consisting of more than 7,000 square feet of retail area, 97,000 square feet of commercial office space and 207 residential apartments.

It is located over Aldgate East Tube Station between the City, the financial heart of London, and neighborhoods Aldgate and Spitalfields.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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