All 75 high-rises in Britain that have been tested for fire safety since the Grenfell Tower tragedy have failed, a leading government official said on Monday, raising concerns that even more buildings may have to be evacuated while emergency repairs are undertaken.
Addressing the House of Commons, Sajid Javid, the minister for communities and local government, said all 75 towers in Britain whose cladding had so far been tested for combustibility had failed.
He said hospitals and schools would also be tested to ensure they had not been built with cladding that could easily catch fire.
Hundreds of families were ordered to evacuate apartments in the five high-rise buildings of the Chalcots Estate in northwest London on Friday night in an urgent scramble after it emerged that, among other safety risks, the buildings had exterior cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower.
At least 79 people died in Grenfell Tower on June 14, in London’s deadliest fire in more than a century.
An estimated 4,000 residents of the more than 800 apartments in the Chalcots Estate were advised to leave their homes, many of them resorting to sleeping on air mattresses in a nearby hospitality center.
But at least 100 residents refused to budge, even as local officials were knocking on their doors and urging them to get out.
Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, announced the new number, which has been revised upwards from 60, in Parliament.
He also said he had asked all councils and housing authorities in England to inspect tall, residential buildings which potentially have similar cladding to that of Grenfell Tower.
He said there were around 600 such buildings in the country.
“I know the entire country is anxious to hear what we are doing to reassure residents about fire safety in similar blocks around the country,” he said.
The programme to test the cladding, a composite of aluminium and which was thought to have helped the Grenfell Tower fire spread quickly, started on 21 June.
The 75 affected buildings are spread across 26 local authority areas.
“I know members [of Parliament] will rightly want to know if their residents are affected, and my department will publish regular updates on gov.uk.”
The combustibility test has three categories and if the building lands in category two or three, it means the cladding does not have limited combustibility.
On Friday evening, around 4,000 people were evacuated from high rise buildings in Camden with similar cladding.
The cladding and insulation material failed fire safety tests after the disaster.
Mr Javid said he was “concerned at the speed” of which landlords were submitting samples of their cladding to be tested, and asked them to do so immediately.
“I’m determined that residents have as much peace of mind as possible in these worrying times,” he said. “Landlords must keep residential buildings safe for their tenants.”
The blaze at Grenfell Tower spread within half an hour and killed at least 79 people, and Mr Javid said the death toll was expected to increase.
Officials said some victims would never be identified due to the intensity of the fire.
The latest victim to be named was 52-year-old Mary Mendy. Her sister, Betty Jackson, said in a statement that Mendy was “a wonderful sister, an incredible aunt, the best mother any child could have wished for”.