Combustible cladding found in UK tower blocks: PM

Flames and smoke coming from a 27-storey block of flats after a fire broke out in west London. (AFP)

Combustible cladding has been found in "a number" of publicly-owned tower blocks in Britain following emergency checks after a devastating fire in London, British Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday.

"A number of these tests have come back as combustible," May said in a statement to parliament after ordering checks on all similar blocks.

"We cannot and will not ask people to live in unsafe homes," she said, adding that relevant local authorities and fire services had been informed but without specifying what action would be taken.

The cladding on the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block in London has been widely blamed for the quick spread of the flames in the 120-apartment building.

Seventy-nine people have been killed or are missing presumed dead as a result of last Wednesday's fire.

The cladding was installed for beautification and insulation despite warnings from local residents about fire safety as part of a major refurbishment of Grenfell Tower that was completed last year.

May said "no stone will be left unturned" in a judge-led inquiry she has ordered into the blaze.

"I know many others living in tall residential buildings will have concerns about their safety after what happened at Grenfell.

"All social landlords have been instructed to carry out additional fire safety checks on tower blocks and ensure the appropriate safety and response measures are in place," she said.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was highly critical of the chaotic official response to the fire, for which May has apologised.

He urged the government to make funds available immediately so councils can "carry out immediate fire safety checks and install sprinklers".

"There is obviously a huge cost involved in removing and recladding blocks that are found to have flammable materials included in them," he said.

Anger simmers around burnt-out west London tower block

One week on from the fatal London tower block inferno, the macabre smell of the burnt-out building clings to a traumatised neighbourhood, where every conversation is peppered with indignation.

Some 79 people are presumed dead after last Wednesday's blaze, which quickly engulfed the 24-storey social housing block.

As Prime Minister Theresa May apologised in parliament for the state's failure to "help people when they needed it most" in the initial aftermath of the fire, locals in north Kensington were still struggling to come to terms with the disaster.

Margaret Thomson, 47, lives in one of the four-storey buildings which surround the charred tower.

She is therefore allowed to cross the police cordon surrounding the burnt-out shell of the Grenfell block, where the grisly search for identifiable human remains continues.

"One week and we still don't know how many neighbours died! It's a real shame," she told AFP.

"Do you think it would be the same if it would have been a white, affluent building? Of course not!"

'We need the truth'

Home-made posters with pictures of the missing are plastered around this working-class enclave in Kensington, the richest district in Britain.

"We see signs of missing people everywhere," said Thomas, a Londoner in his 20s.

"They were all in that building, and they died in that building. We need the truth," he told AFP.

"Let people know that they lost their loved ones, let them start getting on it, what they need to do: a funeral, a life after their loved ones. We cannot continue like this."

No-one knows, and it may never be accurately known, how many people were in the concrete tower of 120 apartments when fire took hold in the lower floors in the early hours of June 14.

In a tower inhabited mostly by people of foreign origin - including many Moroccans and Somalis, some with the right paperwork, some without - the custom was to put up relatives, friends and acquaintances, especially during Ramadan, where families meet late at night for the iftar, the fast-breaking meal.

Police commander Stuart Cundy has called for anyone with information about themselves or others in the tower, who for any reason has not come forward, to do so.

"We will continue to do everything we can to find answers to those who are missing loved ones," said Cundy, who is leading the investigation.

A week on, 10 people from the west London tower were still in hospital, six in a critical condition.

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