They banged on windows, screamed for help, dropped children from smoky floors in a desperate attempt to save them.
On Thursday, British Prime Minister Theresa May ordered a public inquiry into the blaze, which has fueled public anxiety about whether the many high-rise apartment blocks around the country are safe.
Concerns had been raised about the fire risk of cladding as far back as 2000 in a parliamentary report, it has emerged. As the heavy black smoke from the fire cleared Thursday, the huge burned-out hulk of Grenfell loomed over London's working-class, multi-ethnic North Kensington neighborhood.
Commander Stuart Cundy said: "If you are a resident who has been evacuated from the area and can't now get home the current reception centre being coordinated by the local authority is at the Portobello Rugby club at Walmer Road".
Firefighters trying to race into the building were protected from the falling debris by police officers who placed riot shields over their heads.
"There are obvious questions" about the Grenfell refurbishment and whether it led to the fire spreading, he said.
More than 30 people remain in hospital - 17 of whom are in a critical condition. "It's impossible to comprehend the horror of what they've been going through".
Speaking Wednesday afternoon, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he would be "demanding answers" as to whether residents' earlier concerns were ignored.
They said they caught fire and spread the flames up the outside of the building. "It just reminded me of 9/11", said Muna Ali, 45. "I went up so quickly, I have never seen a fire spread like that". "It had completely spread within half an hour". She was taking people in to help them. People were screaming everywhere.
The search for victims could take "months", he added. Tiago Etienne, 17, said he saw about three children between the ages of 4 and 8 being dropped from around the 15th floor.
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Other residents told harrowing tales of their own escapes and frustration at not being able to help neighbors.
The Queen earlier said her "thoughts and prayers" are with families. Others leapt from high floors rather than succumb to the flames. "We have to get to the bottom of this - the truth has got to come out and it will".
This included its microbiology building in Cumberland St, which Naylor Love says on its website was the first in New Zealand to be reclad with a type of aluminium composite material. She later sent a Snapchat message at 2.45am in which she said in Arabic, "forgive me everyone, goodbye". "They couldn't stop the fire".
"As the commissioner of London Fire Brigade, I was truly anxious for a long time about the safety of the building and my firefighters in there".
As the investigation progressed, experts suggested exterior aluminum cladding installed during a renovation to Grenfell Tower previous year might be to blame for the blaze's rapid spread. "Usually, when there is a fire in a residential building, residents gather below in groups".
"Rydon completed a partial refurbishment of Grenfell Towerin the summer of 2016 for Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation on behalf of the council".
"I'm lucky to be alive".
What went wrong at Grenfell Tower?
The university also invested heavily in fire protection measures, including sprinkler systems.
"Our absolute priority for all of us is identifying and locating those that are missing", Cmdr.
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