PHOTOS: Deadly blaze rips through London apartment building

A blaze has ripped through a 24-storey housing block in west London, trapping residents as they slept and killing at least 12 people in an inferno that the fire brigade says is unprecedented in its scale and speed.

More than 200 firefighters, backed up by 40 fire engines, fought for hours to try to control London's deadliest blaze in a generation, which began early on Wednesday. The Grenfell Tower apartment block was home to about 600 people.

More than 16 hours after the fire started, crews were still trying to douse flames as they sought to reach the top floors.

Firefighters said they had rescued 65 people - some in pyjamas - from the 43-year-old block, a low-rent housing estate overlooking upscale parts of the Kensington area.