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Exterior Insulation Tests Fail at 34 British High-rise Towers

  • VOA News

Residents are evacuated from the Taplow residential tower block on the Chalcots Estate, in the borough of Camden, north London, June 23, 2017. The evacuation, for safety concerns, followed a devastating fire that killed 79 people in a west London high-rise.

The exterior insulation on almost three dozen high-rise buildings in England has failed fire safety tests, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Cladding samples failed fire safety tests Saturday at 34 apartment buildings in cities including London, Manchester, Plymouth and Portsmouth, government officials said. Tests are continuing, an official said.

The tests were initiated following the recent deadly London fire at Grenfell Tower. Grenfell's exterior insulation is thought to have been responsible for the rapid acceleration of the blaze, resulting in the deaths of at least 79 people, fire officials said.

News of the failed safety tests came as the London borough of Camden evacuated four residential high-rise buildings, containing 650 households, late Friday because of fire safety concerns.

A view of Burnham residential tower on the Chalcots Estate showing the bottom section of the building after cladding was removed, in the borough of Camden, north London, June 22, 2017. The cladding was deemed to be a safety concern.
A view of Burnham residential tower on the Chalcots Estate showing the bottom section of the building after cladding was removed, in the borough of Camden, north London, June 22, 2017. The cladding was deemed to be a safety concern.

Camden officials said hotel rooms would be provided for residents after fire authorities said people would be unsafe in case of fire. Residents can expect to be out of their homes for three to four weeks while upgrades are made, local officials said.

Grenfell Tower and those buildings evacuated Friday are all part of government-run, low-cost, public housing developments.

The buildings in Camden have the same combustible exterior insulation that was used at Grenfell Tower.

Many residents who were quickly evacuated complained about confusion and lack of information. A few residents were refusing to leave.

The British government estimates up to 600 other high-rise buildings in the country could face the same problem as the Camden residential towers.

The Grenfell Tower blaze is the subject of a criminal investigation, London police spokeswoman Fiona McCormack said Friday, with officers "looking at every criminal offense from manslaughter onwards."

People look at the burned Grenfell Tower apartment building in London, June 23, 2017. Investigators have traced the source of the June 14 fire to a refrigerator in one of the fourth-floor apartments.
People look at the burned Grenfell Tower apartment building in London, June 23, 2017. Investigators have traced the source of the June 14 fire to a refrigerator in one of the fourth-floor apartments.

The concrete apartment building had recently been extensively renovated, with the work including a new coating of exterior insulation. Some survivors of the fire claim that cheap materials were used for the cladding. Others contend substandard maintenance practices also were responsible for the disaster.

Investigators have traced the source of the fire to a refrigerator in one of the fourth-floor apartments. The particular model of that Hotpoint brand of appliance has not been sold for at least five years. Spokesmen for the manufacturer, which is owned by the U.S. firm Whirlpool, said the company was addressing the matter and cooperating fully with the official investigation.

Police spokeswoman McCormack said the exterior insulation on the ill-fated building failed safety tests meant to measure its flammability. Investigators also have been checking on companies that installed the material, both at Grenfell Tower and other locations in Britain.

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