Aldgate East fire: What happened in blaze at tower building on Whitechapel High Street - was anyone injured?

More than a hundred firefighters were at the scene, which saw flames rip through flats in the Houblon Apartments, in the Relay Building.

Firefighters tackled a huge blaze at a high-rise tower block in Aldgate East yesterday, which saw two people hospitalised.

More than a hundred firefighters were at the scene, which saw flames rip through flats in the Houblon Apartments, in the Relay Building, on Whitechapel High Street.

A woman trapped on the 17th floor was rescued by firefighters, and two people were taken to hospital.

When did the fire break out?

At just before 4pm on Monday, March 7, firefighters were called to a burning building in Aldgate.

People working in nearby office blocks filmed the flames engulfing several floors of the skyscraper and the thick grey smoke pouring from the scene.

A photo of the Aldgate East fire from the opposite building. Credit: Gabriel Petrovici

Panels of glass were filmed falling to the street below, prompting road closures.

A total of 25 fire engines and around 125 firefighters were dispatched, including crews from Whitechapel, Shoreditch, Dowgate, Bethnal Green, Dockhead, Old Kent Road, and Islington.

The fire service said the blaze was under control by 7.07pm.

Where was the fire?

The blaze occurred in a block of flats and offices on Whitechapel High Street, in Aldgate East.

It was in the Houblon Apartments, the affordable housing element of the Relay Building.

The fire service said a three-roomed flat on the 17th floor was destroyed, while part of an 18th floor flat and half an external 19th floor balcony were also damaged by the fire.

The aftermath of the fire in Aldgate East. Credit: Gabriel Petrovici

The block was originally called One Commercial Street and is a 21-storey tower at the junction of Whitechapel High Street and Commercial Street, E1.

It opened in 2014 and was built by developer Redrow and architects Sigma Seifert.

The building contains 207 apartments and 110,000 sq ft of offices over six floors, shops, parking and an entrance to Aldgate East underground station.

What happened to people in the building - was anyone injured?

There were no deaths reported as a result of the blaze, but two people were taken to hospital.

A further two people were treated at the scene by paramedics.

Around 70 people were evacuated from the building, the fire service confirmed, while the others remained in their unaffected flats.

The Aldgate East fire. Credit: CatAldgate

One woman was trapped on the 17th floor and led to safety by firefighters, wearing a fire escape hood.

The hoods protect wearers from fire gases by filtering out toxic smoke for up to 15 minutes.

Resident Deeba Syed, a lawyer, wrote on Twitter: “This is my building on fire in Whitechapel.

“If journalists are looking for residents to speak to, I can happily put you in touch with the residents who have been raising the fire safety issues with Network Homes for years.”

She later added: “Everyone is safe, thank god.

“Residents [are] now allowed back in but no fire alarms went off. The only reason residents knew is because neighbours were knocking on doors.

“People could have died - you have known about the flammable materials on the balconies for years, Network Homes.”

What did the fire service say?

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.”

Fire in Aldgate. Photo: London Fire Brigade

He added: “We mobilised a 64 metre 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.”

What did the paramedics say?

At 8.06pm, spokesperson for the LondonAmbulance Service said: “We are responding to a fire on Whitechapel High Street with our emergency service colleagues.

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

At 9.27pm, they added: “Our response to the fire on Whitechapel High Street is now complete.

“Working alongside other emergency services, our crews have taken two patients to hospital and treated a further two patients at the scene.

What did the housing association say?

A spokesperson for Network Homes said: “We’re pleased to see everyone has been safely evacuated from the building.

“As soon as we became aware of the situation we sent a team to the building to provide support to residents, and they remained on site into the evening.

“Network Homes is a leaseholder of 75 flats across floors seven to 11 of this building.

“Overall responsibility for the building lies with the freeholder, and we actively engage with their managing agent on fire safety measures.”

What happens now?

The reason for the blaze has not yet been confirmed

The fire service have said the cause of the fire is under investigation.