60 high-rise UK buildings fail fire safety tests after London disaster

Posted at 11:06 PM, Jun 25, 2017

LONDON  –At least 60 high-rise buildings across the UK have failed safety tests in the wake of the catastrophic fire that swept through Grenfell Tower in West London on June 14.

The tower blocks are among 600 buildings across the country being tested for potentially dangerous cladding, or siding, in light of the blaze that left the apartment block a charred shell.

The inferno killed 79 people and has exposed a rift between rich and the poor in Britain, with many of the buildings at issue social housing blocks.

All 60 high-rise buildings that have been tested so far have failed, a UK government spokesman told CNN on Sunday.

On Friday, 800 households were ordered at short notice to evacuate five apartment towers in the London district of Camden while external cladding on the buildings is removed.

However, the Local Government Association said that residents of the other tower blocks that have failed the fire safety tests would not necessarily need to be evacuated.

“Where cladding fails the test, this will not necessarily mean moving residents from tower blocks. In Camden, the decision to evacuate was based on fire inspectors’ concerns about a combination of other fire safety concerns together with the cladding,” the association, which represents local government councils, said.

“Working with fire service experts to assess risks, a number of councils have already introduced other fire safety measures in buildings, such as 24-hour a day warden patrols, when advice from the fire service is clear that this will mitigate against fire risks ahead of the removal of cladding,” it added.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said “a particular set of circumstances” on the Chalcots Estate made the evacuation necessary.

Camden Councilor Georgia Gould announced last week that residents’ safety could not be guaranteed and those living in buildings deemed unsafe by fire officials “must leave,” the Camden Council said in a statement.

“By remaining in the blocks, these residents risk delaying the work that is required and that we are undertaking to make these homes safe,” the statement said. “It is not safe to remain in these blocks, and our residents’ safety will continue to be the Council’s number one priority.”

Residents of these five buildings will have to live elsewhere for four to six weeks while external cladding on those buildings is removed. They will be moved to temporary housing, which includes hotels and homes of friends and family.

In the Grenfell Tower investigation, police said they are considering manslaughter charges among the criminal offenses that may have been committed at the high-rise building.

A fridge has been identified as the source of the fire, which spread quickly up the exterior of the building.

While emergency responders won plaudits in the wake of the fire, politicians have faced tough questions and vocal protests.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has week apologized for the authorities’ “failure” in the initial aftermath and promised more help. The local council’s chief executive resigned amid the angry public backlash.

May said Saturday that the government is working with Camden Council and others to address fire safety in residential blocks nationwide.

“We’re making sure that the resources are there to ensure that what is needed to keep people safe is being done,” she said.

CNN’s Marilia Brocchetto, Laura Smith-Spark and Katie Hunt contributed to this report.