Socialist Worker

Fire sweeps 19-storey building with cladding similar to Grenfell

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2754

The fire swept through several floors

The fire swept through several floors (Pic: Guy Smallman)


A fire has engulfed part of a 19-storey residential tower block in New Wharf Side, Poplar, in east London that is partly covered in aluminium composite materials (ACM) cladding.

This is the same cladding that was put on Grenfell Tower, which led to the deaths of 72 people in 2017 after a fire broke out.

This time it was not so disastrous. But it could have been far worse.

Parts of the eighth, ninth and tenth floors of the high rise were ablaze, with smoke billowing

Residents in Block D of the Providence Wharf were reportedly trapped on their balconies when the London Fire Brigade attended at around 9am on Friday morning.

They say they only found out about the fire after being notified by fellow residents on their WhatsApp group chat.

Firefighters were fast on the scene and managed to control the fire.

Alarms

The blaze needed 125 firefighters and 20 engines to tackle it, and it’s reported that no fire alarms in the building went off until the fire began to spread from the eighth floor.

Two people have been taken to hospital, and a further 38 were treated at the scene.  

The cause of the fire is yet unknown, as is whether the cladding was involved in the fire. But witnesses say the fire spread quickly, and over 20 percent of the building is clad in ACM PE panels.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said, “It is extremely alarming to see another high-rise building in the heart of London light up in flames.

“It should shame this government that four years on from Grenfell there are people across the country living in buildings wrapped in flammable cladding.

“The pace of removing flammable cladding has been glacial and it’s putting people’s lives at risk. The government must intervene and take quick and decisive action to end our building safety crisis once and for all.”

Grenfell survivors’ anger as they say authorities have tried to shift blame
Grenfell survivors’ anger as they say authorities have tried to shift blame
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Tory MPs have consistently voted against fire safety amendments that would prevent residents from covering the costs of removing the deadly material. And they have been dangerously slow to remove flammable material.

End Our Cladding Scandal campaign group said, “We are devastated to see this fire happen at a building that still has ACM, where the developer, Ballymore, has been playing hardball with residents in terms of how and if it will help.”

It claims Ballymore “knew full well about the issues two years ago, and has continually refused to properly help residents, offering only a fraction of the funds needed to make the buildings safe.”

Leaseholders in the building have been pushing for the cladding to be replaced and work to replace the cladding was due to begin next week.

Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse Apsana Begum said, “Ballymore recorded profits of £80 million through subsidiaries last year and their net asset value is estimated at more than £500 million.

“My constituents have had service charge invoices withheld and seen insurance costs quadruple. It is simply not good enough for developers to say that they cannot act or that they are and then do nothing.”

And the bereaved and survivors’ group Grenfell United added, “When will the government take this scandal seriously? Enough is enough. The Government promised to remove dangerous cladding by June 2020. It has completely failed its own target and every day that goes by lives are at risk.”

It’s time people were put before profits.


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