UK fire safety crisis expands; Hundreds evacuated in London

Jerome Frank
June 25, 2017

Portsmouth and Brent, along with Camden, Manchester, Plymouth and Hounslow, were named by the Government on Saturday as having buildings that had failed tests amid a nationwide safety operation launched after at least 79 people died when fire ripped through Grenfell Tower in north Kensington on June 14. Residents say they were given little notice and were forced to seek emergency shelter. Some refused to leave.

"I know it's hard, but Grenfell changes everything", Camden Council chief Georgia Gould told reporters outside a complex of buildings known as Chalcots Estate on Friday. Until now, public attention has been focused on external cladding material that is widely used to provide insulation and enhance the appearance of buildings.

Some 4,000 residents of the Chalcots Estate in Camden, north London, were told to vacate their apartments on Friday after the Fire Brigade ruled that their tower blocks were unsafe.

Hundreds of residents of a London housing estate have found their lives thrown into chaos after their tower blocks were evacuated amid safety fears linked to the Grenfell disaster.

The Prime Minister said: "We are making sure that the authority has the ability to do what is necessary to ensure people have somewhere to stay and that the work is done so that those tower blocks will become safe for them to return to in future".

Residents trooped out of the buildings Friday night with suitcases and plastic bags stuffed with clothes as council workers in high-visibility security vests guided them to a local community center where some spent the night on inflatable beds. Others were being put up in hotels or other housing projects.

Repairs on the building are expected to be completed within three to four weeks. Residents will be allowed in at the weekend to collect more possessions under escort from the fire brigade.

The council initially announced the evacuation of one tower block, Taplow, but later extended the move to all five tower blocks it had checked.

"No official came and told us what's going on, I saw it on the TV so I packed an overnight bag", she told the Press Association.

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"At 8:30pm (1930GMT) yesterday they told us: "you have to leave", I don't understand why", Murtaza Taha, 27, told AFP.

Mother-of-six Najmon Adam, who has lived in Bray for 12 years, said she would remain in her property until the council found accommodation in the borough for her family.

The flammable external cladding has been identified as the culprit in the Grenfell disaster, but fire-safety experts have said the blaze was probably due to a string of failures, not just the cladding.

British police have said they are considering bringing manslaughter charges over the Grenfell fire.

Cost was a primary concern when removing the NFPA 285 requirements, with developers expressing concern they would not be able to find or afford cladding which passed fire tests.

"We are looking at every criminal offence from manslaughter onwards", Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack said.

An in-depth look at the causes of the Grenfell Tower blaze by the New York Times detailed how in the United Kingdom, a "drive by successive governments from both major political parties to free businesses from the burden of safety regulations" allowed the tower's owners to swaddle the outside of the building in a highly flammable aluminum and polyethylene cladding.

The statement read: "We have been made aware that the recent fire at Grenfell Tower in West London may have originated in a Hotpoint branded fridge freezer, manufactured between March 2006 and July 2009, model numbers FF175BP (white) and FF175BG (graphite)".

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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