London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the devastating Grenfell Tower block fire was caused by “years of neglect,” describing the tragedy as “a national disaster that requires a national response.”
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, following a memorial service in honor of the victims, Khan criticized the local London council and the British government.
“People are angry, not simply at the poor response in the days afterwards from the council and the government, but at the years of neglect from the council,” Khan said.
Police in London have said 58 people are now presumed dead following the blaze at the tower block.
“There’s a feeling that the council and successive governments don’t understand their concerns and frighteningly don’t care,” said Khan.
He added that those who lost their lives did so in a “preventable accident that didn’t need to happen and the tragedy we’re seeing is the consequence of mistakes and neglect from politicians – the council and the government.”
Meanwhile, UK Finance Minister Philip Hammond said on Sunday that the outer wall covering on the Grenfell Tower, known as cladding, is banned in the UK.
The tower’s flammable cladding is widely believed to be the main reason for the rapid spread of the blaze.
Hammond told a weekly BBC politics show that a criminal investigation will examine whether building regulations had been breached when the block was renovated.
An additional public inquiry set up by the government will determine if building regulations had been broken.
“So there are two separate questions. One: are our regulations correct, do they permit the right kind of materials and ban the wrong kind of materials? The second question is: were they correctly complied with?” Hammond said.
“That will be a subject that the inquiry will look at. It will also be a subject that the criminal investigation will be looking at,” he added.
Hammond also refuted Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s suggestion that sprinkler systems should be installed on high rise buildings no matter the cost, saying they might not always be necessary.
“If the conclusion of a proper technical evaluation is that [fitting sprinklers] is the best way to deal with the problem, then of course. But my understanding is that the best advice is that retrofitting sprinklers may not always be the best technical way of ensuring fire safety in a building,” he said.
Construction began on the Grenfell Tower in the early 1970s, during the tenure of Edward Heath’s Conservative Party government.