By DANICA KIRKA
LONDON — Some 600 buildings in England could have been fitted with flammable external panels like the ones believed to have contributed to a fire that killed at least 79 people in a west London apartment building, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Downing Street office said.
Government facilities testing cladding have so far found three tower blocks to have combustible panels. The testing came after local authorities submitted samples following the June 14 fire at Grenfell Tower in north Kensington.
Police and fire officials are trying to determine whether the aluminum composite panels contributed to the rapid spread of the blaze, which engulfed the 24-story building in less than an hour.
“A number of these tests have come back as combustible,” May said. “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 encouraged the owners, both public and private, of tower blocks around the country to quickly forward samples of any similar material for testing. The government will work with local authorities to make sure any dangerous material is removed and residents are safe, she said.
The Department for Communities and Local Government said it would not identify the buildings with combustible panels until landlords have had the opportunity to inform tenants.
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn called for urgent checks on around 4,000 buildings as Britain comes to grips with the potential ramifications of the disaster. Thousands need urgent assurances about their own safety, he said.
“At least 79 people are dead — it is both a tragedy and an outrage because every single one of those deaths could and should have been avoided,” Corbyn said.
Corbyn compared the tragedy to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which 96 people were killed in the crush of a crowded soccer stadium, and recent sexual abuse scandals…