June 22 (UPI) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday that hundreds of high-rise British buildings may have potentially combustible exterior cladding.
The rapid spread of a June 14 fire in the 24-story Grenfell Tower, a London apartment building, killed at least 79 people. The fire consumed much of the building's cladding on its exterior as it rose up the sides of the building.
May told the House of Commons Thursday that about 600 buildings in Britain have a similar cladding, made of polyethylene core between two sheets of aluminum composite material and typically used as a decorative element on a building. Not all pose an immediate risk, she said, but she said the British government would test cladding on 4,000 apartment towers as a precaution.
Preliminary test reports indicate that at least three samples sent to a national laboratory pose a possible fire hazard, The New York Times reported Thursday.
"A number of these tests have come back as combustible. The relevant local authorities and local fire services have been informed, and as I speak they are taking all possible steps to ensure buildings are safe, and to inform affected residents," May said.
"We can test over 100 buildings a day, and the results come within hours. I urge any landlord who owns a building of this kind to send samples for testing as soon as possible. Any results will be communicated immediately to local authorities and local fire services."}
The Grenfell Tower was constructed in 1974 and renovated in 2006, when the aluminum/polyethylene material was added. The building lacked sprinklers or a centralized alarm system, and residents were ordered during the fire to "stay in place" until rescue workers arrived.