London Fire: 95 U.K. Buildings Fail Fire Safety Tests Top News

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London Fire: 95 U.K. Buildings Fail Fire Safety Tests Top News

LONDON — Cladding from nearly 100 high-rise buildings around the U.K. have failed fire safety tests conducted after London’s deadly apartment block blaze on June 14, the government said Tuesday. The fire left dozens dead, sent shock waves throughout Britain and plunged the government of Prime Minister Theresa May into crisis.

May said Tuesday that a “major national investigation” should take place into the use of cladding covering many buildings in Britain. The cladding on London’s Grenfell Tower is suspected of worsening the blaze.

The government estimates that up to 600 buildings around the country may have similar cladding.

Officials have pressed landlords to submit samples for testing, with the minister in charge of local government, Sajid Javid, saying he was concerned with the pace of submissions. The facility analyzing the samples can test up to 100 a day.

In addition, fire inspectors at high-rise social housing in London’s borough of Camden found that hundreds of fire doors were missing in five buildings, with estimates by the local authority that they need to order 1,000 new fire doors, according to Javid.

“Clearly something has gone wrong there, drastically wrong,” Javid told Parliament on Monday. “But it’s an example of, again where these issues need to be looked at very carefully why this is happening in this day and age in our country.”

Contractors at Grenfell Tower used a non-fire-resistant outer layer of cladding — a practice that isn’t illegal under current British regulations — and it is suspected this helped the blaze spread rapidly, leaving at least 79 people dead or missing.

Cladding has been fitted to the exterior of hundreds of concrete housing blocks built in England the 1960s and 1970s to improve their appearance or insulation.

The Grenfell fire is now the subject of a police investigation and an official public review. The fire commissioner is also looking at its “requirements in relation to every aspect and outcome of the incident.”

While illegal in the European Union and the U.S., cladding similar to that used in Grenfell may have been used on buildings in other countries around the world, according to experts.

“Regulations aside, (fire safety and the materials used in tall buildings) is an international issue,” said Matthew Needham-Laing, a leading litigation lawyer and construction expert. “We know of fires in China … fires in the Middle East, fires in this country and also in France.

Related: 600 High Rises Have Grenfell Style Cladding

“It’s a problem that has to be addressed. It’s how you address it really.”

Dubai in particular has had several large high-rise fires in the past, and changed its fire regulations as a result, said Michael Kortbawi, a corporate and insurance law specialist at BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates.

“Most buildings in Dubai were built with materials that are not up to standard, based on information we collected,” he said.

“The new fire regulations are not retroactive and didn’t force buildings that are already built to change,” said Kortbawi. “When the time is up for renovations then the buildings will have to replace unsuitable materials.”

Media reports in Australia and Israel on Monday suggested that high rises there could also be vulnerable.

The Times of Israel reported that the Israeli government had amended the building code to enable some construction projects to use the same flammable material suspected to have been a major factor in the deadly London blaze.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Herald Sun newspaper said that fire safety experts feared poor oversight of construction firms could lead to a Grenfell-like tragedy there.




Image: Police maintain a security cordon as a huge fire engulfs the Grenfell Tower

Police maintain a security cordon as a huge fire engulfs the Grenfell Tower early on June 14 in west London.