Blaze at Canary Wharf tower block with cladding issue
- Credit: PA/Athina Fokidou
Emergency crews tackled a blaze at a tower block close to Canary Wharf where controversial cladding material was being removed.
They were called to the New Providence Wharf development on the Thames waterfront at Blackwall at around 9am today (May 7), with 25 fire engines and around 125 firefighters at a 19-storey tower in Fairmont Avenue.
Parts of the eighth, ninth and 10th floors are alight, the London Fire Brigade said. The Brigade's 999 control centre has taken 13 calls so far.
Crews are at the scene from Poplar, Millwall, Shadwell, Whitechapel and Plaistow fire stations.
Two men have been taken to hospital suffering smoke inhalation. Another 38 adults and four children have been treated at the scene.
Tower Hamlets Council has been campaigning for more government funding to remove all cladding from tower blocks following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in west London in 2017 when 72 people lost their lives.
The death toll at the time was blamed on flames spreading rapidly through its cladding material, trapping families above the blaze which began on the fourth floor.
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The cause of the blaze is still being looked into by the fire brigade.
Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs said: “We need to wait to better understand the causes of today’s fire, but the fact that four years after the Grenfell disaster there is still flammable cladding on so many high rise buildings is scandalous. The Government just hasn’t gone fast enough to force developers and building owners to take action.”
The council is arranging with hotels to "provide respite for the residents affected" and is working with the fire brigade to get people back to their homes "as soon as its safe".
The families in New Providence Wharf have been campaigning to get all the cladding taken off and the developers, Ballymore, began a removal programme last month.
But councillors do not want to wait any longer, with 293 buildings affected by cladding and fire safety across Tower Hamlets alone.
Cllr Rabina Khan told the East London Advertiser: “A taskforce team must be set up to support these families. People living in these tower blocks need emotional support.
“What more evidence does the government need to get cladding in every high rise block fixed?
"No-one can forget the Grenfell tragedy and the lifetime emotional impact on the families affected.”
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told MPs in the Commons in February that government cash was now available to get rid of cladding on privately-owned tower blocks like New Providence Wharf, so leaseholders who own their own apartments would not be slapped with bills for building safety work.
The cladding still had not been taken off many private blocks - including New Providence Wharf - by February, four years after the Grenfell tragedy, a government report revealed.
One of 14 companies named in the government report was Landor Residential, a subsidiary of Ballymore at New Providence.
Work to replace the cladding on the building was due to begin next Monday, with the main contractor having been due to take possession of the site, Ballymore confirmed in a statement to the Advertiser today.
The company said: “We mobilised swiftly and enabling works started on site once funding from the Building Safety Fund was confirmed in March.
“The building features ACM (cladding) on approximately 22 per cent of the façade.”
The luxury housing complex has more than 1,000 households.
A spokesman for the company added: “Our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by this morning’s fire.
"Safety of residents is paramount. Our response team is on-site to support residents and assist with alternative accommodation where necessary.”
An investigation into the cause of the blaze is now undser way by the London Fire Brigade.