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UK to probe widespread use of cladding after tower blaze

UK TO PROBE WIDESPREAD USE OF CLADDING AFTER TOWER BLAZE

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday promised a "major national investigation" into exterior cladding on high-rise buildings following the deadly Grenfell Tower fire, after safety tests on 95 similar blocks recorded a 100 percent failure rate.

An estimated 600 tower blocks in England are believed to have cladding similar to that used on the 24-storey tower in west London, which was devastated in a blaze on June 14 that left 79 people presumed dead.

At her weekly cabinet meeting, "the prime minister said there would need to be a major national investigation into what had gone wrong, when cladding which is failing the tests had been fitted on buildings across the country over a number of decades", her spokesman said.

He confirmed that the cladding on the 95 residential blocks tested so far, in 32 different areas, dated from this decade and the last decade, adding: "Very clearly, these failings are concerning."

The investigation would probably be included as part of a judge-led public inquiry already announced into the blaze.

"Ministers have said that the public inquiry might be expected to look at why this cladding had been fitted in different parts of the country over a long number of years, and I'm confirming that," he said.

The Grenfell fire, started by a faulty fridge, spread rapidly up the block, trapping many residents in the upper floors.

Arconic, the US supplier of the cladding used in a recent refurbishment of the tower, announced Monday that it was stopping sales of the material for high-rise buildings.

"We have witnessed a catastrophic failure," British communities minister Sajid Javid told MPs on Monday.

He lamented that landlords were only slowly submitting samples for testing, even as officials have said they can test 100 samples a day.

All hospitals have been asked to conduct additional checks and 15 government buildings "require further investigation", Javid said, without giving further details.

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