David Lammy brands London fire ‘corporate manslaughter’

15 Jun

Tottenham MP David Lammy said he believed arrests should be made over the fire and called it 'corporate manslaughter'

Tottenham MP David Lammy said he believed arrests should be made over the fire and called it 'corporate manslaughter'

Tottenham MP David Lammy said he believed arrests should be made over the fire and called it ‘corporate manslaughter’

A London MP has today branded the Grenfell Tower blaze ‘corporate manslaughter’ and demanded arrests are made because he fears hundreds may have died.

Labour‘s David Lammy also said he was losing hope for close friend Khadija Saye, 24, and her mother Mary, who lived on the 20th floor but are still missing.

The furious Tottenham MP insisted that people must be ‘held to account’ for allowing the disaster to happen and said the police should arrest them.

He said: ‘This [Kensington and Chelsea] is the richest borough in our country treating its citizens in an appalling way and we should call it what it is. It is corporate manslaughter.

‘That is what it is and there should be arrests made. It is an outrage.’  

The passionate comments came as Mr Lammy appealed for information about ‘beautiful’ artists Khadija Saye, 24, and her mother Mary, who lived on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower.

Friends said that she was recognisable by the Africa pendant she always wears around her neck.

Mr Lammy said: ‘We hope and pray that she is amongst them (in hospital) and not perished in that building as I suspect hundreds will have done by the end of this count.’ 

Khadija Saye, who lives on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower in west London is also among those who are currently missing

Khadija Saye, who lives on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower in west London is also among those who are currently missing

Friends said that she was recognisable by the Africa pendant she always wears around her neck

Friends said that she was recognisable by the Africa pendant she always wears around her neck

Khadija Saye, who lives on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower in west London is also among those who are currently missing. Friends said that she was recognisable by the Africa pendant she always wears around her neck

Fire tore through the building in the 15 to 30 minutes after it was sparked by the exploding fridge - experts and 

Fire tore through the building in the 15 to 30 minutes after it was sparked by the exploding fridge - experts and 

Fire tore through the building in the 15 to 30 minutes after it was sparked by the exploding fridge – experts and 

Did the building’s new cladding make the fire much worse? 

The cladding used on Grenfell Tower may have exacerbated the fire, it has been claimed.

Rainscreen cladding, which was added during the block’s refurbishment, can act as a ‘chimney’ for fires because of its ventilated cavities.

Many have speculated as to whether this could have made the fire worse, and led to it spreading quickly and trapping residents.

Jack Monroe, a former fire fighter, tweeted about the incident and said: ‘Whoever signed off on that cladding needs to be hauled before a court and held fully accountable for every single fatality and injury.

Chartered surveyor and fire expert Arnold Tarling, from Hindwoods, said that the process can create a 25mm-30mm cavity between the cladding and the insulation.

‘It produces a wind tunnel and also traps any burning material between the rain cladding and the building.

‘So had it been insulated per se, the insulation could fall off and fall away from the building, but this is all contained inside.’

He said not all insulation used in the process is the more expensive non-flammable type

‘So basically you have got a cavity with a fire spreading behind it.’

Rydon carried out an £8.6 million project, completed in May 2016, to modernise the outside of the building, which saw new cladding and windows installed.

In a statement, the Sussex-based firm said it was shocked by the ‘devastating’ blaze, adding: ‘Rydon completed a refurbishment of the building in the summer of 2016 for KCTMO (Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation) on behalf of the council, which met all required building control, fire regulation, and health and safety standards.

The former chairman of the tenancy organisation connected to Grenfell Tower has described recent refurbishment work as a ‘disaster waiting to happen’. 

The Tottenham MP said the fire amounted to ‘corporate manslaughter’ – although the cause has yet to be established.

Without identifying anyone he regarded as culpable, Mr Lammy pointed out that housing conditions in the capital were too often ‘unacceptable’ and urged the demolition of unsafe buildings. 

‘These are poor Londoners but they are the lucky ones who are in social housing. Most of them will be the working poor in London,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

Mr Lammy went on: ‘We know as politicians that the conditions in this country are unacceptable.’

‘We built buildings in the 1970s, many of them should be demolished. It is totally unacceptable. People should be held to account.’ 

Families have begun the desperate search for loved ones that have gone missing after a huge inferno engulfed a tower block in west London.

Moments after cheating death and escaping Grenfell Tower in Latimer Road, White City, relatives are now faced with the prospect of having to search for those who have gone missing during the ensuing chaos. 

The Health and Safety Executive, the police and the fire service are now expected to launch a large-scale investigation and Rachel Adamson, Head of Regulatory Law at Stephensons law firm, said for an incident of this size it is very likely they will be considering criminal charges. 

She told MailOnline: ‘Corporate manslaughter charges are often quite difficult to prove as they relate to the controlling mind of the business.

‘If an individual is thought to have been negligent, a charge of manslaughter by gross negligence may be considered.

‘There are a range of other potential charges, such as breach of fire regulations or breach of health and safety regulations, these are the tiers down from manslaughter.’ 

Investigators are expected to look at how recent renovation work was carried out, whether Construction Regulations have been adhered to, and what fire safety precautions were in place.

More than one resident has claimed that there was no central fire alarm system for the tower block – or it had failed – and only smoke alarms in individual flats were working.

There are also claims that there that there was no central sprinkler system – or it was also not working properly during the fire.

Others have claimed that the new cladding encasing the block added during last year’s £10million refurbishment by Rydon Construction caught alight ‘like a matchstick’. 

The fire at Grenfell Tower broke out in the early hours of yesterday morning 

The fire at Grenfell Tower broke out in the early hours of yesterday morning 

The fire at Grenfell Tower broke out in the early hours of yesterday morning 

Undertakers remove bodies from Grenfell Tower today but the recovery of the dead is likely to take several more days as the fire is still not out

Undertakers remove bodies from Grenfell Tower today but the recovery of the dead is likely to take several more days as the fire is still not out

Undertakers remove bodies from Grenfell Tower today but the recovery of the dead is likely to take several more days as the fire is still not out

Cladding is a material attached to a building's frame to create an outer wall (shown in this graphic). The process of applying the rain-proof frontage can create a 25mm-30mm cavity between the cladding and the insulation behind it, shown between the first two layers

Cladding is a material attached to a building's frame to create an outer wall (shown in this graphic). The process of applying the rain-proof frontage can create a 25mm-30mm cavity between the cladding and the insulation behind it, shown between the first two layers

Cladding is a material attached to a building’s frame to create an outer wall (shown in this graphic). The process of applying the rain-proof frontage can create a 25mm-30mm cavity between the cladding and the insulation behind it, shown between the first two layers

Checks are to be carried out on tower blocks going through similar refurbishment to Grenfell Tower, policing and fire minister Nick Hurd has said.

Special arrangements have been made for MPs to question a Government minister on the Grenfell Tower fire this afternoon.

MPs would normally expect to hear a ministerial statement on a tragedy of this scale in the House of Commons, but this is not possible because Parliament has not yet formally reopened following the snap election.

But Speaker John Bercow announced on Wednesday that a meeting with a minister would be arranged. It is due to take place at 1.30pm in the Commons’ secondary chamber, Westminster Hall.

Fire minister Nick Hurd is expected to make a statement and take questions from MPs.

Mr Bercow said on Wednesday that the meeting could be attended by “colleagues gravely concerned about this matter”, but that it would not be an official proceeding of Parliament. It was not immediately clear whether the session would be televised.

Cut price cladding added to tower blocks built in the 1970s could be to blame for the rapid spread of a fire which claimed the lives of at least 17 people.

CLADDING WAS USED TO ‘IMPROVE THE APPEARANCE’ OF THE BLOCK OF FLATS

A planning document released by the council in 2014 said: ‘Due to its height the tower is visible from the adjacent Avondale Conservation Area to the south and the Ladbroke Conservation Area to the east.

‘The changes to the existing tower will improve its appearance especially when viewed from the surrounding area.’

The document also makes repeated reference to the ‘appearance of the area’.  

New plastic rain-proof cladding was installed at Grenfell Tower in White City, London, in May 2016 as part of a £10million refurbishment – but ‘went up like a match’ and helped the fire spread quickly from the fourth to 27th floor.

This evening it also was suggested that council penny pinching and accepting the lowest bid was to blame for the blaze according to one former worker.

Others said that the cladding chosen purely to make the block look ‘posher’. 

The woman, who worked as a property manager for Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council for 20 years said the deadly blaze could have been prevented if the council had spent money upgrading it.

But Grenfell Tower, run by Tenant Management Organisation for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council, was not modernised during the employee’s two decades working in the property area of the authority.

Often fire alarms didn’t work and a new external fire escape was not installed because it would cost too much, she said.

She claimed new cladding fitted to the outside of the building last year caused the blaze to rip through the block because substandard and cheap materials were used in an effort to save cash.

She said: ‘They spent £1 million on cladding the outside of the building last year, and surveyors told the council not to use the cheapest possible materials, but they accepted the lowest possible bid.

‘The surveyors weren’t happy about it, but every time we brought it up with management they said ‘we hear you, but we simply can’t spend the money on upgrading the building’.

There are fears that that no one who lived on the top three residential floors may have survived the unprecedented fire

There are fears that that no one who lived on the top three residential floors may have survived the unprecedented fire

There are fears that that no one who lived on the top three residential floors may have survived the unprecedented fire

More than 600 residents desperately tried to escape the flames as the fire broke out in the middle of the night, with many woken by the screams of others and the smell of burning plastic

More than 600 residents desperately tried to escape the flames as the fire broke out in the middle of the night, with many woken by the screams of others and the smell of burning plastic

More than 600 residents desperately tried to escape the flames as the fire broke out in the middle of the night, with many woken by the screams of others and the smell of burning plastic

‘It was built in the 1970s and the council didn’t want to spend the money needed to bring it up to date because it would have cost so much money and taken so much work.

WHY CLADDING CAN BE A FIRE HAZARD

Cladding is a material attached to a building’s frame to create an outer wall.

The purpose of cladding – which can be made from wood, metal or plastic – is to prevent condensation and to let water vapour escape.  

But adding cladding to tower blocks creates an additional fire risk, according to some experts.

The material can be flammable and it also creates a cavity that traps other burning material between the cladding and the building.

Grenfell Tower underwent a £10.3 million renovation project in May 2016 and was fit with insulated exterior cladding and double-glazed windows. 

In the early hours of this morning, the fire at Grenfell tower spread to the cladding outside.

‘The cladding went up like a matchstick’, according to reports by one resident. 

The building was clad with polyester powder-coated (PPC) aluminium rain-screen panels, according to the Guardian

Some have described it as ‘polystyrene-type’ cladding – and it may have been clad in the cheaper. 

According to Reynobond’s website, the manufacturer of the panels, they come in two variants.

One version a polyethylene core, which is a type of plastic, and flammable.

Another version comes with a fire retardant mineral and has a higher resistance to fire.

Grenfell tower developers decided to go for the cladding without the fire retardant mineral, which could be seen burning and melting in the early hours of this morning.

Another issue is the process of applying the rain-proof frontage can create a 25mm-30mm cavity between the cladding and the insulation behind it. 

Design specifications suggest the renovation work carried out at Grenfell Tower included a 50mm ‘ventilated cavity’ next to 150mm of Celotex FR5000 insulation.

This insulation, according to Celotex, has a Class 0 rating under UK building regulations, meaning it has the highest rating for preventing the spread of flames and prevents the spread of heat. 

In July last year, the 75-storey Sulafa Tower in Dubai Marina went up in flames, following a number of similar fires in the Middle East, including one at the 63-storey The Address Downtown Dubai on New Year’s Eve 2015.

James Lane, head of fire engineering at BB7, told IFSEC Global last July: ‘Another high-rise apartment block is apparently victim to the poor fire properties of its external cladding.

‘Any building constructed before the 2013 change in the local fire codes will be at risk from this kind of rapid and extensive fire spread unless major work is undertaken in the region to replace combustible insulation core cladding panels with a suitable alternative.’

‘The materials they used for the cladding was a cheap mixture rather than the more solid concrete.

‘The cladding created a gap between the wall which caused the fire to spread even quicker throughout the floors.’

Experts were last night focusing their blame for the scale of the disaster on external cladding fitted to the block only last year.

It was made from metal panels and slabs of a polystyrene-like material, separated by a small cavity, fixed to the concrete surface of the outside of the tower.

Together with new windows, the cladding was meant to boost the building’s energy efficiency, protect against the weather and smarten up the look of the 1970s facade.

But it appears to provide a fatal conduit for the flames to leap from one flat to another, with witnesses saying the outside of the block ignited ‘like a firelighter’.

There are fears that hundreds of high-rise blocks across the UK are fitted with similar materials – even though MPs warned of the potential fire risk nearly 20 years ago.

A report in 1999 by the Environment, Transport and the Regions select committee said: ‘We do not believe that it should take a serious fire in which many are killed before all reasonable steps are taken towards minimising the risks.’

The MPs highlighted concerns that the small air cavity between the layers of cladding can act as a chimney, helping the fire spread rapidly upwards. Their report demanded that ‘all external cladding systems should be required either to be entirely non-combustible, or to be proved through full-scale testing not to pose an unacceptable level of risk in terms of fire spread’.

But the method was popular as councils sought to meet insulation standards laid out under the Blair Government’s £22billion Decent Homes Programme, which ran from 2000 to 2010. It continued to be used even after the 2009 fire at the 14-storey Lakanal House in Camberwell, South East London, which killed six people.

Sam Webb, a fire safety expert who helped gather evidence after that tragedy, said last night there was a conflict between safety and the materials used to make buildings more energy efficient.

‘They are not fire-resistant and in some cases they’re flammable,’ he said. Fires involving cladding have also occurred in Australia, Russia and the Arabian Peninsula – adding to the serious safety concerns.

They include two in Dubai, one on New Year’s Eve 2015 at the 63-storey The Address Downtown and a second last July at the 75-storey Sulafa Tower.

Grenfell Tower was clad last year as part of an £8.6million refurbishment by East Sussex-based builders Rydon, which said yesterday that its work ‘met all required building controls’.

Yet the company admits on its website that the insulation material used, Celotex RS5000, ‘will burn if exposed to a fire of sufficient heat and intensity… [and] toxic gases will be released with combustion’.

Design specifications seen by the Mail suggests Grenfell Tower had 150mm (6in) of Celotex RS5000 insulation and overcladding made from ACM – aluminium composite material – with a 50mm (2in) ‘ventilated cavity’ in between.

ACM is also potentially highly flammable and rescuers yesterday faced the hazard of blazing metal panels raining down on them as they tried to enter the building.

Arnold Tarling, chartered surveyor and fire expert with property firm Hindwoods, said the air cavity could create a ‘wind tunnel [that] traps any burning material between the rain cladding and the building’.

‘Had there merely been one layer of insulation, this could have fallen off and fallen away from the building but the metal cladding meant it was all contained inside. Not all insulation used in the process is the more expensive non-flammable type,’ he said. ‘So basically you have got a cavity with a fire spreading behind it.’

Dr Kostas Tsavdaridis, associate professor of structural engineering at the University of Leeds said: ‘The fire seems to have not only spread the inside the building but also outside. There is a trend nowadays where architects and designers use decorative materials to make buildings more interesting and aesthetically pleasing.

‘Some materials used in facades act as significant fire loads: although theoretically they are fire resistant, in most cases they are high-temperature resistant instead of fire resistant. But even if they are, smoke and fire will spread through the joints and connections.’

Grenfell Tower was equipped with metal overcladding by Harley Facades Limited, another East Sussex-based firm.

 

 

 

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