ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 139

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Israel’s fire service says hundreds of buildings nationwide may be similarly vulnerable

US company halts sale of panels used on burned London tower

Arconic says it will no longer sell Reynobond PE cladding material, believed to be a key factor in deadly Grenfell Tower blaze

The unburned lower floors with untouched cladding still in place are pictured, with the burnt out upper floors above, at remains of the Grenfell Tower block in north Kensington, west London on June 22, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / NIKLAS HALLE'N)
The unburned lower floors with untouched cladding still in place are pictured, with the burnt out upper floors above, at remains of the Grenfell Tower block in north Kensington, west London on June 22, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / NIKLAS HALLE'N)

American cladding maker Arconic said Monday it is discontinuing global sales of one type of composite paneling for use on high-rise buildings following the deadly fire at a London apartment tower, as Britain’s government sought to manage a burgeoning fire safety crisis.

British police have said the Grenfell Tower fire — the worst in Britain in over a century — was spread by flammable materials in the building’s facade, and indicated that prosecutions for manslaughter may ensue. Israel’s Fire and Rescue Authority has admitted there may be hundreds of buildings nationwide that are similarly vulnerable, but that it has no idea how many there are.

Arconic said in a statement that Reynobond PE would no longer be sold for use in high-rise buildings. The company also makes another style of cladding — Reynobond FR — which is fire-resistant.

“We believe this is the right decision because of the inconsistency of building codes across the world and issues that have arisen in the wake of the Grenfell Tower,” Arconic said in a statement. “We will continue to fully support the authorities as they investigate this.”

The Reynobond PE cladding may have been a factor in rapidly spreading the June 14 blaze that killed at least 79 people trapped in the 24-story Grenfell Tower.

Police man a security cordon as a huge fire engulfs the Grenfell Tower in West London, June 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Daniel Leal-Olivas)
Police man a security cordon as a huge fire engulfs the Grenfell Tower in West London, June 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Daniel Leal-Olivas)

The UK government is scrambling to test panels similar to those used at the destroyed tower, hoping to better understand the national fire safety implications.

As in Britain, building regulations in Israel prohibit the use of the polythene Reynobond panels (Reynobond PE) during initial construction, but loopholes have allowed for it to be used unchecked in some cases during renovations, where contractors are specifically looking to cut costs.

Arconic’s announcement came as Britain’s government announced that 75 buildings had failed cladding combustibility tests in 26 local authority areas. Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid said every building tested so far had failed.

“The fact that all samples so far have failed underlines the value of the testing program and the vital importance of submitting samples urgently,” Javid said. “I am concerned about the speed at which samples are being submitted.”

Fire officials are checking the safety of thousands of buildings nationwide amid fears by residents that what happened at Grenfell could happen to them.

Thousands of people have been evacuated from four high-rises in north London after inspectors found myriad safety problems that included faulty fire doors and troubles with gas pipe insulation as well as the cladding.

Workers remove cladding from the Whitebeam Court tower block in Salford, north west England on June 26, 2017. (AFP/PAUL ELLIS)
Workers remove cladding from the Whitebeam Court tower block in Salford, north west England on June 26, 2017. (AFP/PAUL ELLIS)

Hospitals and school buildings across Britain will also have their exterior cladding tested for flammability as part of an urgent nationwide push to increase fire safety.

Meanwhile, Britain’s government said it is donating £1 million ($1.27 million) to the charitable response to the fatal fire.

Javid said the figure recognizes that small charities and not-for-profit organizations are making a contribution to the relief effort.

The government is also giving £48,000 ($61,000) to support an assistance venue, the Westway Center.

The funding is in addition to £5 million ($6.4 million) provided for the Grenfell Tower Residents’ Discretionary Fund.

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