PM pledges help for tower block evacuees

Posted June 26, 2017

Flammable external cladding that is widely used to provide insulation and enhance the appearance of buildings has been identified as the culprit in the Grenfell disaster.

She said the fire service "told us they could not guarantee our residents' safety in those blocks".

Earlier 94-year-old Peter Bertram, a former RAF aircraft hand and a resident of the estate for 46 years, said he was "shocked" by the ordeal.

Some complained of confusion as the council first announced the evacuation of one building, then expanded it to five and later reduced it to four.

Britain's Press Association reports that dozens of people have refused to leave their homes on a London housing estate, defying efforts by officials to evacuate some apartment blocks due to fire safety concerns.

Many more are yet to be checked in an urgent review following the blaze at Grenfell Tower block that killed at least 79 people.

Work had been due to begin on stripping cladding from buildings on the Chalcots Estate, but Camden Council ordered the "decant" of residents on Friday evening following further checks by the London Fire Brigade. Similar inspections are ongoing elsewhere in Britain on hundreds of buildings. "London Fire Brigade officers will continue to work with Camden to put in place measures to improve safety for residents".

Police said Friday they are considering filing manslaughter charges in the Grenfell disaster and they were conducting a wide-ranging investigation that will look at everything that contributed to it.

The Metropolitan Police said cladding attached to the 24-story public housing project during a recent renovation failed safety tests conducted by investigators, and that they have seized documents from a number of organizations.

"We are looking at every criminal offense from manslaughter onwards", Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack told reporters. The particular model of that Hotpoint-branded appliance has not been sold for at least five years; spokesmen for the manufacturer, which is owned by the USA firm Whirlpool, said they were addressing the matter and cooperating fully with the official investigation.

Hotpoint said Friday that "words can not express our sorrow at this bad tragedy" and added it was working with authorities to examine the appliance.

The government also urged building owners, public and private, to submit samples of their cladding material for testing, since fears about cladding are not limited to apartment buildings.

The cladding, Reynobond PE, was only intended for use in buildings shorter than firefighters' ladders in other European countries, but its United Kingdom guidelines stated only to refer to "local building codes". At least one hotel chain is calling in experts to make certain its properties meet safety regulations.

That fire was found to have been spread by a type of exterior cladding also found on the buildings that were evacuated.

A total of 79 people are feared dead after the blaze destroyed 151 homes in the Kensington tower block. To encourage co-operation, Prime Minister Theresa May said the government won't penalize any fire survivors who were in the country illegally.

She said: "We need to get the buildings empty so we can work with our partners to start the work to make these tower blocks safe, so that everyone can return to their normal lives as soon as possible".

Labour has stepped up its attack on the Government over the tragedy, with shadow home secretary Diane Abbott claiming the victims died as "a direct effect of Tory attitudes in social housing".