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United Kingdom fire safety crisis expands; Hundreds evacuated in London

26 June 2017

An in-depth look at the causes of the Grenfell Tower blaze by the New York Times detailed how in the United Kingdom, a "drive by successive governments from both major political parties to free businesses from the burden of safety regulations" allowed the tower's owners to swaddle the outside of the building in a highly flammable aluminum and polyethylene cladding.

Residents also want the Council to improve on fire safety measures by installing sprinklers, fire alarms and providing fire blanket, all of which are now absent in the high-rise apartments.

So far, Portsmouth, Brent, Camden, Manchester, Plymouth and Hounslow have been named as local authorities with buildings that failed tests.

"Obviously, those residents in Camden who had to be asked to leave their homes at such short notice have had a distressing experience". It said about 650 apartments were evacuated, though initial reports put the figure at 800 apartments. Repairs on the building are expected to be completed within three to four weeks.

"I know some residents are angry and upset, but I want to be very clear that Camden Council acted to protect them", Gould said in a statement.

She told BuzzFeed News that they were told the evacuation had been ordered because of the cladding material outside their block.

The Prime Minister said it is possible for some councils to take "mitigating action" on tower blocks, but in other cases it had been necessary to move people out.

In response, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said May needed to "get a grip" and lead a stronger response to what is now a "national threat".

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. Residents will be allowed in at the weekend to collect more possessions under escort from the fire brigade.

Officials say they acted because fire officials said they could not guarantee the safety of residents.

Renee Williams, 90, who has lived in Taplow Tower since 1968, told Britain's Press Association: "No official came and told us what's going on".

"There have been a couple of fires [at the estate] already but nothing has happened to the cladding, so I don't see why anything would happen now".

"I said to the fire service, is there absolutely anything I can do to make these blocks safe and they said they wasn't and then their firm advice was that we had to evacuate the blocks".

Ms Davidson said she was rescued from an earlier fire at Taplow in 2012 by crews from Belsize fire station. Carl McDowell, 31, said he took one look at the inflatable beds offered on the floor of the leisure centre and went back to his own apartment. Other residents were distraught that they were ordered to evacuate but were told to leave their pets behind in buildings that could be risky.

The cladding on the buildings is similar to that of west London's Grenfell Tower, where at least 79 people died last week when a fridge-freezer sparked a blaze that consumed the building.

Police said Friday that they were 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. But fire-safety experts have said the blaze was probably due to a string of failures, not just the cladding.

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

United Kingdom fire safety crisis expands; Hundreds evacuated in London