Combustible cladding on buildings similar to Grenfell Tower, says British PM Theresa May | News | DW | 22.06.2017
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Combustible cladding on buildings similar to Grenfell Tower, says British PM Theresa May

Tests on external materials of other tower blocks in Britain conducted after the Grenfell Tower fire showed instances of combustible cladding. The aftermath of the fire has also forced a local administrator to resign.

British Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons on Thursday that combustible cladding has been found on "a number" of publicly owned tower blocks similar to Grenfell Tower.

"Shortly before I came to the chamber, I was informed that a number of these tests have come back as combustible," she said.

The prime minister's office estimated that 600 high-rise buildings in England have cladding similar to Grenfell Tower.

"We are obviously in touch with all the local authorities to encourage them to urgently send us the samples and then we will carry out the checks that we need," the prime minister's spokeswoman said.

Read more: Grief turns to anger as protesters march over London tower fire response

May has launched a public inquiry as well as a criminal investigation after a fire in the 24-story Grenfell Tower killed at least 79 peoplelast week. The aluminum composite material is being studied to see if it contributed to the quick spread of the fire, which engulfed the building in less than an hour in what was the worst fire in the United Kingdom since World War II.

"We cannot and will not ask people to live in unsafe homes," May said. She also apologized for mistakes leading to the aftermath of the disaster and said "no stone will be left unturned" in the judge-led inquiry.

"For any guilty parties there will be nowhere to hide," she added.

Despite warnings from local residents regarding fire safety, the cladding was installed for beautification and insulation as part of a major refurbishment of the tower completed last year. The fire has fueled animosity at government cuts to local authority funding and drawn accusations of criminal negligence.

"This has been a wake-up call for the whole country," said opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. "At least 79 people are dead - it is both a tragedy and an outrage because every single one of those deaths could and should have been avoided."

Local administrator to step down

Nicholas Holgate, the chief executive of the Kensington and Chelsea council, has also resigned Thursday, saying he was forced out by May's government.

He said in a statement the Communities Minister Sajid Javid had required Nicholas Paget-Brown, the leader of the council, to seek his resignation.

"Despite my wish to have continued, in very challenging circumstances, to lead on the executive responsibilities of the Council, I have decided that it is better to step down from my role, once an appropriate successor has been appointed," Holgate said.

May said it was right that Holgate resigned.

Holgate had come under intense scrutiny after local authorities struggled to handle the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire. Residents who survived lost everything and received little help or information as to how to get back on their feet.

dv/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)