Six people, including three children, have been killed after a fire ripped through a tower block in Camberwell, south London, on Friday. One of the children who died was just three weeks old.

The 12-storey tower block, Lakanal House, which is occupied by around 94 flats and was built in the 1960s, has been slammed as unsafe. It has just one central staircase and doubts and been raised over whether escape routes and fire prevention measures were adequate.

The fatalities have been named as Dayana Francisquini, 26, her son Filipe, three, her daughter Thais, four, Catherine Hickman, 31, Helen Udoaka, 34, and her three week old baby Michelle

The fire started on the ninth floor and moved up the stairway to the eleventh.

120 people were evacuated from the building, 30 were rescued and 15 were taken to hospital, including three of those who died. The other three fatalities died inside the building.

Tower block blaze that killed six: escape routes investigated

Inquiries into how a blaze which ripped through a tower block killing six people, including a three-week-old baby girl, was able to spread so quickly were continuing today.

Sunday 5th July 2009
The Telegraph

Fire investigators assessing the damaging caused by the fire at Camberwell, south London Photo: PHILIP HOLLIS

Camberwell fire Photo: PA

The single staircase in the middle of the 12-storey 1960s building was at the centre of the investigation after doubts were raised over whether escape routes and fire prevention measures were adequate.

Tributes were paid today to those who died as the London Fire Brigade said a "unique situation" caused "one of the most significant fires in some time".

Mbet Udoaka, 37, watched helplessly as his wife Helen, 34, and three-week-old baby Michelle died in the blaze at Lakanal House in Camberwell, south London, on Friday night.

Towering inferno: Flames tear through the block of flats in south London

His cousin Mary told the Mail on Sunday his wife called him to say she was trapped in their flat on the 11th floor and he raced home from work. He stayed on the phone until his wife lost consciousness, but police and firefighters would not let him enter the burning building.

She said: "Helen was panicking and crying, but they were on the phone to each other constantly until she was too weak to cry. He was beside himself. He so wanted to run to their rescue but was stopped."

Dayana Francisquini, 26, and her son Filipe, three, also died, along with Catherine Hickman, 31.

Tragic loss: Dayana Francisquini, her son Filipe, three, and daughter Thais, four, all perished in the blaze

Blaze victim Dayana Francisquini with son Filipe, three, and four-year-old daughter Thais, taken on her fourth birthday at home

The sixth victim, who has not yet been identified, is believed to be Ms Francisquini's young daughter, named in media reports as Thais.

Ms Francisquini's husband Rafael Cervi, 31, a hotel porter from Brazil, was at work when he heard the building was on fire, and raced home but was prevented from going inside by firemen, The Sunday Telegraph reported.

He said the last words he heard from his wife were in a phone call when she told him she was struggling to breathe.

He told the newspaper: "They were what I lived for. Now everything is gone and I have nothing."

Speaking to Brazilian newspaper Gazeta do Povo, Ms Francisquini's aunt Elisabete Francisquini Paulino said life had been going well for the family before the tragedy happened.

She said: "Their deaths came just at the moment when they were in a good and very happy situation."

Ms Hickman's boyfriend Mark Bailey, who flew home from New York when he heard about the blaze, paid tribute to her and said he had intended to propose on his return.

He told the Sunday Times: "She was a truly saintly person, the most generous, beautiful girl I ever met. I don't know how to live without her."

Tragic: Michelle, the three-week-old daughter of Helen Udoaka who perished in the blaze

Harriet Harman, the area's MP, said people were "asking questions" about fire escape routes in the tower block.

"There will have to be a thorough investigation in to what caused this fire and whether the prevention was adequate," she said.

Several residents described the complicated layout of the maisonettes as "a maze" and said it made the evacuation difficult while onlookers described seeing those trapped inside screaming for help.

The cause of the fire, which is believed to have started on the ninth floor, has not yet been established and officers are treating it as suspicious, police said.

Assistant Commissioner Nick Collins, of the London Fire Brigade, said it was "very difficult" to be conclusive about the cause of the blaze and it may take "some weeks at the very least".

He added the London Fire Brigade was working with the local authority to see if any lessons could be learned for the future, but stressed that it was too early to say what they may be.

Brian Coleman, chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, said investigators would be examining how and why the blaze was able to spread so quickly.

"In buildings such as this one you should be safe for an hour before fire jumps from floor to floor," he told Sky News.

Fire officers take a break outside the tower block in Camberwell where the fire took hold

Fire officials inspect the burnt out flats where six people died

"That wasn't the case in these circumstances and I think we need to know why the fire spread so quickly and jumped between floors in such a short space of time."

He added that once the single staircase becomes blocked, "things become difficult".

London Mayor Boris Johnson told the BBC: "It does seem suspicious that the fire was spreading so quickly and clearly that will be one the prime subjects for the investigation."

Aftermath: A three-week-old baby is among the dead

Paul Glenny, a firefighter who battled the blaze, said: "The hot weather and the fact that people's windows were open made the fire what it was."

Ian Wingfield, a local Labour councillor and the party's spokesperson for public housing in the borough, said he believed it was the "worst tower block disaster in history".

He called for a full public investigation into such housing across the country.

"We're living in the 21st century and people are still living in housing like this," he said.

"Unless we get that investigated, people's lives are under threat.

"We need to ensure justice is given for these needless deaths and ensure that nothing like this happens again."

Southwark Council Leader, Nick Stanton, said it was likely to be "days if not weeks" before residents could return to their homes after the "ghastly incident".

Kim Humphreys, the council's executive member for housing, said the tower block had undergone a 3 million refurbishment programme two years ago.

Six people died in the fire which tore through the 12-storey block in Camberwell

Firefighters work their way through the building. More than 100 firefighters joined the rescue

Last edited by Blackleaf; Jul 5th, 2009 at 11:22 AM..