The Catholic bishops of Westminster offered their prayers and local parishes opened their doors to offer aid and supplies to those affected by a massive fire at an apartment complex in west London on Wednesday.
“We pray for all the residents of the Grenfell Tower. I pray particularly for those who have suffered injury, those who have died, and all the residents who are left without a home today, and the entire community that has been affected,” said Cardinal Vincent Nichols in a statement.
On June 14, just after midnight, a fire began on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower located in north Kensington, a district of west London. The 24-story building is home to hundreds of people, and the fire blazed until early in the morning.
Authorities have said it is too soon for speculation into the cause of the fire.
So far, 17 people have been reported dead in the fire and some 70 people have been hospitalized for injuries sustained in the incident, including 20 people whose condition is critical.
Hundreds of others who escaped the flames have still lost their homes and all of their belongings, but Catholic parishes in the surrounding area have quickly begun receiving donations of food, clothes, and water to be distributed. Saint Clemente, one nearby church, has seen such an outpouring that it has asked for future donations to be given to a church a few blocks away.
Meanwhile, many residents remain unaccounted for, and friends and family are scrambling to connect with their loved ones.
Auxiliary Bishop John Wilson of Westminster especially offered prayers for “all who are still worried about their loved ones who are unaccounted for.”
Stuart Cundy, commander of the Metropolitan Police, expects the death toll to rise, but he has thus far declined to comment on any details of the missing people due to the complexity and difficulty of the identifying process.
Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton has encouraged surviving residents to report themselves to authorities so they are known to be safe. An emergency number has also been established for friends and family who are worried for loved ones, known to be residents in the building.
According to BBC News, Cotton also expressed concern that people may still be trapped inside, and fire fighters would be expected to stay on the scene until the next day at least.
Nichols applauded the emergency response team, which included over 250 firefighters and more than 100 ambulance medics.
“Once again in our city we witness the heroic efforts of our emergency services who responded so quickly. I thank them for all they are doing to help the victims of this devastating fire,” he said.