“They were trapped. They couldn’t come downstairs, especially from the top floor … people have been burned,” a witness identified as Daniel said.

A 27-storey apartment block in west London was gutted by fire before dawn on Wednesday, killing at least 6 people and injuring dozens more after residents were left trapped inside.

London Fire Brigade chief Dany Cotton said there had been “a number of fatalities” and 30 people had been hospitalised after what she called an “unprecedented” blaze.

Eyewitnesses said they had seen some people fall or jump from the stricken building and at least one resident waving a piece of white cloth from one of the upper floors as flames ravaged the tower.

Seven hours after the alarm was raised, flames could still be seen inside the charred building as a thick plume of black smoke marred the west London skyline.

Large pieces of debris could be seen falling from Grenfell Tower, a 1970s council block in the working-class north Kensington area — a short distance from chic Notting Hill.

Witnesses said they heard screaming from the upper floors as the flames rose in the night.

“I have seen it with my own eyes. And I have seen people jump.”

Hanan Wahabi, 39, told AFP she escaped with her husband and son, 16, and daughter, 8, but feared for her brother and his family who live on the 21st floor.

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“Last time I saw him they were waving out the window, his wife and children,” she said, sitting outside the Rugby Portobello community centre.

“I’ve not heard from them since, the phone is not going through, the landline isn’t going through. That was about 2:00 am (0100 GMT), she said.

Eddie, 55, who lives on the 16th floor, said he ran out of his house with a wet towel wrapped around his head as smoke engulfed the flat.

“You couldn’t see anything. I just ran down the stairs… Loads of people haven’t got out of the building,” he said.

By early morning, most of the block was a smouldering hulk as firefighters sprayed water onto floors within reach of appliances on the ground.

Frantic families at the scene attempted to call their loved ones, fearing they could be stuck inside, and were being directed by police to a nearby restaurant where some of the injured were being treated.