London council evacuates tower blocks as fire fallout widens

British officials Saturday said cladding samples from 27 high-rise apartment blocks in 15 different areas have failed fire safety tests, though they did not reveal the location of those buildings.

Buildings in 17 local authorities are now known to have cladding which is not compliant with current regulations - including towers in Manchester, Camden, Plymouth, Hounslow, Portsmouth, Barnet and Brent.

It is understood that some or all of these buildings may be evacuated as a precaution.

The evacuation comes amid widening worries about the safety of high-rise apartment blocks across the country following the inferno that engulfed Grenfell Tower in west London on June 14, killing at least 79 people.

Police investigating the cause of the deadly 24-storey Grenfell Tower blaze have said the fire started in a fridge but spread rapidly due to the use of external cladding on the building, trapping residents in their beds as they slept.

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

Residents - including families with babies and elderly relatives - trooped out of the buildings late Friday night with suitcases and plastic bags stuffed with clothes.

"People are very concerned - I've spent most of the day visiting residents around my constituency particularly where there are concerns about cladding".

"The London Fire Brigade advised that there were a number of fire safety issues that we and the LFB were previously unaware of in the Chalcots buildings and recommended that residents should not remain in the buildings until these issues are resolved", Gould said in a statement early Saturday.

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". He said officials knocked on residents' doors Friday night, two hours after he had heard about the evacuation on the news.

Roger Evans, 51, who said he found out that his building was being cleared after a friend saw it on the news and alerted him by text, told the Press Association: "As far as I am concerned, nothing in that building has changed in the last few days, weeks, months or years". "There's no organization and it's chaos", she said.

Carl McDowell, 31, said he took one look at the packed inflatable beds offered at a nearby leisure centre being used as a temporary shelter, and went back to his own apartment.

The Liberal Democrats demanded the Government declare a civil emergency, create a fund to compensate those evacuated and guarantee anyone told to leave their properties they won't have to pay council tax until they return. Others were being put up in hotels and other housing projects.

She said the work is expected to take three to four weeks.

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

The Metropolitan Police have said manslaughter, health and safety, and fire safety charges will be considered. McCormack said the Hotpoint model FF175BP refrigerator-freezer had not been subject to any product recalls before the fire.

A New York Times investigation pointed to the failure of a business-friendly government, under pressure to allow builders to use cheaper, flammable material that is forbidden in the US despite its risks.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who was forced to apologize for the government's initial slow response to the tragedy, said the authorities were now racing to establish what needed to be done.



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