There were terrible echoes of the Grenfell Tower fire nearly two years ago in a blaze that engulfed a six-storey block of flats in east London on Sunday.
It took hold in De Pass Gardens, Barking, at about 3.30pm.
About 100 firefighters worked for more than two hours to subdue the fire. One man and one woman were treated at the scene after suffering from smoke inhalation.
It could have been much worse..
Resident Mihaela Gheorghe said she had “raised several issues” about the safety of wooden balconies on the blocks of flats.
She added, “I was in my fourth floor flat when the fire started. We ran out. The fire brigade came but they found it hard to find a water supply at first.”
“We said that one day a fire is going to happen.
“We raised several issues to the builder, the maintenance companies and the council about the safety of having all these wooden balconies.”
Peter Mason, chair of the Barking Reach residents’ association, told the Guardian newspaper that in early May he contacted the builder Bellway Homes to ask for the fire risk to be investigated. BBC Watchdog broadcast claims of fire safety problems at two other developments by the same builder.
But Bellway told him not to worry.
The blaze came as the Labour Party said owners of high-rise buildings with cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower should face having their blocks seized by councils. This would take place if the material is not replaced by the end of the year.
There is deep anger at the lack of action by the government either to punish those responsible for the Grenfell deaths or to make changes that will prevent a similar horror in the future.
The latest figures showed 164 high-rise private blocks had still not had aluminium composite material replaced. Nearly half had no firm plan in place to address the issue.
Labour said thousands of residents may not know their home is unsafe and called for owners of tower blocks with risky cladding to be named and shamed.
Labour also called for government funding to be made available to councils who take over private blocks with dangerous cladding.
Shadow housing secretary John Healey said, “Many private tower block owners have shown zero sign of replacing their Grenfell-style cladding, and government ministers are letting them drag their feet.
“Concerned residents are still living in homes that may not be safe and many are having to pay for interim safety measures such as 24-hour fire wardens.
“Enough is enough. Private block owners should be made to replace this dangerous cladding, or face councils taking over ownership of these buildings to get this vital safety work done.”
Labour should be campaigning now to take back these blocks, seizing the empty homes of the rich, and starting a major programme of council house building.
Grenfell residents repeatedly warned that the tower was unsafe well before the fire. But they were fobbed off or spurned.
That’s still going on across the rental sector.
A new survey by housing charity Shelter showed that over half of people renting a home from a local authority or housing association have had a problem with the building in the past three years. This includes electrical hazards and gas leaks.
Shelter said among those with a problem, one in ten had to report it more than ten times.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said, “Social tenants living in Grenfell Tower raised serious safety concerns before the fire, but they were ignored. Two years on, social renters are still being failed by poor regulation and people are still fighting to be heard.”
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