3 Jul 2017

London fire: 181 UK high-rises fail safety tests

7:37 am on 3 July 2017

More than 180 high-rise buildings have now failed British safety tests carried out following London's deadly Grenfell Tower fire.

The charred remains of clading are pictured on the outer walls of the burnt out shell of the Grenfell Tower block in north Kensington, west London on June 22, 2017.

Fire swept through London's Grenfell Tower on 14 June, killed at least 80 people. Photo: AFP

Officials are conducting tests on some 600 high-rise buildings across England after the fire ravaged the residential tower block in the west of the city on 14 June, killing at least 80 people.

The Department for Communities said the cladding from 181 buildings in 51 local authority areas had so far failed tests.

The cladding on the outside of Grenfell Tower is thought to have contributed to the rapid spread of the fire.

In New Zealand, Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith has ordered major city councils to find out if there are high-rise blocks here with panels similar to those used on the tower.

Checks are still under way. In Auckland, two high-rise buildings have been found to have a combustible type of aluminium composite panel. The council said they were already in the process of being re-clad, though due to weather-tightness problems - not fire-related issues.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Teresa May announced late last week that Sir Martin Moore-Bick has been chosen to lead the public inquiry into the London tower block fire.

The retired Court of Appeal judge said he understood the "desire of local people for justice", while Mrs May said "no stone will be left unturned" during the inquiry.

Sir Martin said the inquiry would seek to discover the truth about what happened at Grenfell Tower, "so that we can learn lessons for the future".

He said the inquiry must be "open, transparent and fair" to all those involved.

It should "establish as quickly as possible the cause of the fire and how it was able to spread so quickly", he added.

Joe Delaney, from the Grenfell Action Group, said the fire was "a criminal matter" and doubted whether the inquiry could deliver what residents wanted.

Flowers and messages left by well-wishers in tribute to the victims of the June 14 Grenfell Tower block are pictured near the scene of the fire in North Kensington, west London on June 22, 2017.

Flowers and messages left by well-wishers near the scene of the fire in North Kensington. Photo: AFP

He said he was willing to give the inquiry the benefit of doubt, but warned residents' patience was "wafer thin".

One resident, Oluwaseun Talabi, said victims were unhappy at not being involved in Sir Martin's appointment.

Mr Talabi - who fled the burning building with his partner and four-year-old daughter - said: "We need a criminal judge. We need serious justice and this man isn't going to give us any justice."

The Metropolitan Police has previously said it will investigate "all criminal offences that may have been committed".

The prrime minister said last week that 282 temporary properties had been identified for residents of the tower, 132 families have had their needs assessed and there have been 65 offers of temporary accommodation.

The government has made almost £1.25 million of discretionary payments and would be giving an extra £1m to a local group of charities, trusts and foundations, Mrs May said.

Under-construction block catches fire

Separately, a fire has swept through a new block of flats in east London.

The London Fire Brigade said 80 firefighters battled the blaze, which the Independent said engulfed the fourth floor and entire roof of the waterside flats next to Regent's Canal.

They were still under construction and no-one was living there yet.

The cause of the fire - which was now under control - was not yet known.

- Reuters / BBC

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs