(CNN) London – Ten days after an inferno swept through Grenfell Tower in west London, leaving the apartment block a blackened shell and claiming the lives of at least 79 people, a shadow hangs over Britain.
Worst affected are those who lost their loved ones, homes and possessions in the June 14 blaze. The traumatized survivors wait in temporary housing to find out where they will be able to rebuild their shattered lives.
But thousands more are living with fear and uncertainty amid concern that other high-rise buildings may be at risk of a deadly fire.
Haunted by the specter of the tower in flames, local authorities and businesses up and down the country have been carrying out checks on cladding on their tall buildings, amid speculation that the insulation and cladding fitted to the Grenfell Tower fueled the fire’s rapid spread.
Some 4,000 people were evacuated from their homes on a north London estate with minutes’ notice last evening (June 23) after fire chiefs told Camden Council it wasn’t safe for them to stay.
“The Grenfell fire changes everything,” said Camden Council leader Georgia Gould. “We had to act fast.”
Fire safety checks failed
The potential crisis worsened today (June 24), as the UK government said that 27 residential tower blocks had failed fire safety checks carried out in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. Hundreds of tower blocks are being examined across the country.
A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government told CNN the 27 tower blocks were in 15 local council areas, but that figure might rise further.
Tower block owners and fire rescue services had been alerted to the safety test results, he said.
The situation has exposed a rift between the lives of rich and poor in Britain. Many of the buildings at issue are social housing blocks whose occupants complain of longstanding neglect by the authorities.
Some residents of the 650 homes spent the night on air beds in a local sports center. Others found refuge with friends or family, or were put up in hotel rooms. The evacuees included the elderly, children and family pets.
Now they face a wait of potentially weeks for the council to make the buildings safe by removing the cladding and carrying out other remedial works.
The council says the combustible cladding on the Chalcots Estate “significantly differs” from that on Grenfell Tower, but it was not fitted to the standard it had commissioned.
Police said yesterday they are considering manslaughter charges among the criminal offenses that may have been committed at Grenfell Tower.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May apologized to the Grenfell Tower residents for the lack of support they received in the initial aftermath of the fire and promised to do more to help. The chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council also resigned following an angry public backlash over the borough’s response.
Top: Burning debris falls from the 24-story Grenfell Tower as a massive fire engulfs the London apartment building early on Wednesday, June 14. Dozens of people are dead or presumed dead. Photo: CNN
SOURCE: CNN written by Laura Smith-Spark