UK: Banned building materials suspected in London fire

The British government Sunday scrambled to contain political fallout from the London high-rise inferno that has claimed at least 58 lives as officials focused on building materials that may have spread the fire quickly.

Prime Minister Theresa May met with victims of the disaster at Downing Street on Saturday, before declaring that the support given to families in the aftermath of the tragedy was "not good enough".

She has promised to set up a public inquiry and pledged £5 million (NZ$8.8 million) to help the victims.

"The key question now is whether the overall design of the building's complete exterior was properly tested and subsequently signed off by the relevant authorities including the fire officer, building compliance officer and architect before commencement of the project".

Later on Sunday, former United Kingdom chancellor Philip Hammond said the cladding material used on the building was banned on British high-rises.

The Grenfell Tower fire was a "preventable accident" caused by "years of neglect" by the local council and successive governments, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said.

Speaking outside St Clement's Church, Mr Khan said: "There is a feeling from the community that they have been treated badly because some of them are poor".

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Aluminium composite panels are used to add insulation and to make a building more attractive, and consist of two metal panels sandwiching an inner material such as polyethylene, which was reportedly the case at Grenfell Tower. "It may well be the defining outcome of this tragedy that the worst mistakes of the 1960s and 1970s are systematically torn down", he said.

Public anger is mounting as residents and neighbors demand answers for how the blaze early Wednesday spread so quickly and trapped so numerous tower's 600-odd residents. "The work to search the building is challenging, but naturally could never be done quickly enough for those now having to live with the uncertainty of knowing where their loved ones are".

Reports suggest that a renovation project on Grenfell Tower a year ago intentionally did not include safety devices such as sprinklers and doors created to keep the fire from spreading.

But Mark Cripps, a spokesman for Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro, said the Ontario Building Code also stipulates that if "combustible cladding" is used on a building over three storeys, the structure must be equipped with automatic sprinkler protection.

The UK's opposition Labour party launched a stinging attack of the Conservative government in the wake of the fire, underscoring the role austere economic policies may have had in the disaster.

Jeremy Corbyn renewed his controversial call for empty homes in the area to be taken over by the Government to house victims of the fire. "Occupy it, compulsory purchase it, requisition it - there's a lot of things you can do", he said.

He insisted the Government had acted on safety recommendations after an earlier fire in London in 2009, but it would wait for the public inquiry's findings before making any changes in regulation. "And therefore, sadly, I have to assume that they are dead", he said. She also says she will receive daily reports from the stricken neighborhood. Among the criticisms launched at May was also her government's failure to provide up to the minute information to survivors.

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