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Suspicion of banned materials in deadly London blaze

UK — The new exterior cladding used in a renovation on London’s Grenfell Tower may have been banned under UK building regulations, two British ministers said as police continued their criminal investigation into the inferno that killed at least 70 people.

Trade Minister Greg Hands said the government is carrying out an urgent inspection of the roughly 2,500 similar tower blocks across Britain to assess their safety, while an opposition lawmaker urged the government to quickly secure documents in the Grenfell renovation for the criminal probe.

Late Sunday, the Metropolitan Police released three photos from inside Grenfell Tower, which showed in close detail how the blaze charred the 24-story building that once housed up to 600 people in 120 apartments.

Fast spread of blaze

Experts believe the building’s new exterior cladding, which contained insulation, helped spread the flames quickly up the outside of the public housing tower early Wednesday. Some said they had never seen a building fire advance so quickly.

Hands and Treasury chief Philip Hammond said in separate TV appearances that the cladding used on Grenfell seems to be prohibited by British regulations. Hands cautioned that officials don’t yet have exact details about the renovation that ended just last year.

“My understanding is that the cladding that was reported wasn’t in accordance with U.K. building regulations,” Hands told Sky News. “We need to find out precisely what cladding was used and how it was attached.”

Aluminum cladding with insulation sandwiched between two panels has been blamed for helping to spread the flames in major fires in many parts of the world, including blazes in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and the United States.

Police action

Labour Party lawmaker David Lammy demanded that the government and police immediately seize all documents relating to Grenfell’s renovation to prevent the destruction of evidence that could show criminal wrongdoing.

“The prime minister needs to act immediately to ensure that all evidence is protected so that everyone culpable for what happened at Grenfell Tower is held to account and feels the full force of the law,” Lammy said, suggesting that contractors might be destroying evidence before it is sought by police.

He said all records — including emails, minutes of meetings, correspondence with contractors, safety assessments, specifications and reports — must be kept intact.

“When the truth comes out about this tragedy, we may find that there is blood on the hands of a number of organisations,” Lammy said.

He complained bitterly that a friend — the young artist Khadija Saye — was still alive three hours after the fire started but was unable to get out of her apartment to safety.

Police Commander Stuart Cundy says police will seek criminal prosecutions if the evidence warrants. He has not provided details about the inquiry.

From The Toronto Sun