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In U.K., All 75 Buildings Tested So Far for Fire Safety Have Failed

One of the residents, Roger Evans, 51, who works in film production, has lived for three years at Taplow, one of the towers in the Chalcots Estate. He said on Monday that security staff members at the building had tried to block him from entering his apartment, that the council was threatening legal action if residents refused to leave and that an “occupied” sign had been put on the outside of his apartment.


Removing cladding from a tower block in Salford, in northwestern England, on Monday. Credit Paul Ellis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The whole exercise has been a massive knee-jerk overreaction,” he said, standing outside the tower block, as some residents rushed in and out to remove their belongings. “They could just do the work quietly around us. People have been displaced, they don’t know how long for, and are angry. I am refusing to go, and I have no intention of going until necessary.”

Bibiche Kiala, 35, a resident of Dorney, another of the towers, said the sudden order to evacuate had left many residents shaken and upset, including those with children. She said she had been staying with a friend.

“They came and knocked on the door and told us that the building had the same cladding as Grenfell,” Ms. Kiala said. “People are scared. Most wanted to leave but some wanted to stay. They haven’t yet told us when we can come back. They said it could take four weeks.”

Mr. Javid, the government minister, told Sky News over the weekend that the forced evacuation had been spurred not just by the cladding, but by many other “fire safety failures,” including missing fire doors, insulation used on gas pipes and plywood used above doors.

Safety checks were continuing on the cladding on high-rise buildings across the country. Sian Berry, a member of the Camden Council, said the decision to test buildings was voluntary and was being decided by local authorities based on individual risk assessments.

She said that because all the tower blocks tested so far had failed, questions were being raised that even cladding deemed to be safer than that which had been used at Grenfell may not meet fire safety standards.

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“Councils who can’t tell if cladding is safe from the paper trail or just by looking at the building are sending them out for testing, and people are being cautious,” she said. “The results so far are alarming.”

The United States, a world leader in fire safety standards, forbids the application of the sort of highly flammable materials used on Grenfell Tower. But under the regulatory system in force in Britain, builders and property owners faced less strict restrictions and may have wrapped hundreds of buildings in the potentially risky cladding.

John McDonnell, the opposition Labour Party’s spokesman on economic issues, said those killed in Grenfell Tower had been “murdered” by “political decisions” made over recent decades.

As many across the political spectrum have criticized the regulatory shortcomings that may have led to the Grenfell fire, members of the insurance industry have said they warned the government about the risks of flammable cladding just a month before it happened.

Malcolm Tarling, a spokesman for the Association of British Insurers, said the industry was closely watching the response to the fire. “We have been calling for the U.K. government to review fire regulations since 2009,” he said. “As recently as May, we made a submission to the government which referenced the need to consider the fire risk posed by combustible cladding.”

In its submission to the government, the association warned that “external cladding made from combustible material can often cause significant fire spread upward and between buildings, which is a particular concern for areas of high building density.”

Source: NYT > World

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