Gas Turned off in 4 London Towers, After Safety Alert
The gas supply to four residential tower blocks in south London, housing hundreds, has been turned off by distributor Scotia Gas Networks after the local authority and owner of the blocks raised the alarm about cracks in the buildings’ concrete. The government too has been alerted.
Southwark Council said that residents of the four Ledbury Towers weeks ago, in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, brought concerns about the cracks to its attention and, as a result, it had instructed structural engineers from Arup to investigate the cause of the cracking.
The concern is that any gas explosion at Ledbury Towers could cause their collapse. At the Ronan Point tower in east London 49 years ago, a gas explosion blew out load-bearing walls, shearing off a corner of the entire structure, killing 4 people and injuring 17.
Southwark cabinet member for housing Stephanie Cryan said August 11: “All the reports we found suggested the blocks were strengthened following the Ronan Point incident in 1968, to make them safe to include a gas supply. Arup’s structural investigations suggest this strengthening may not have occurred, and we have therefore turned off the gas, until further investigations can be done.” Residents were first informed by the council late August 10. They may have to move out temporarily while remedial works are conducted in the coming weeks or months.
Scotia Gas Networks said August 11: “In agreement with Southwark Council, our engineers are currently working to turn off gas supplies to properties in the Ledbury Estate, Peckham. This work will continue throughout the day.” The four Ledbury Towers contain some 224 households
Two months ago, gas is not thought to have been a factor in a fire at Grenfell Tower on June 14 that killed at least 80 people; some residents believe as many as 120 died. Instead, experts point the blame at the use of flammable cladding and insulation materials. Regulatory, criminal and judicial investigations are underway. Such materials have been used at hundreds of other residential tower blocks in the UK, and also common elsewhere.
Grenfell has made UK authorities re-examine past multiple fatalities in high-rise residential towers. Southwark, which owns Ledbury Towers, said it had written to the UK government to inform it of the latest issue “as it may well have implications for other blocks around the country that were constructed in this way.”
Update Nov.16: London's Metropolitan Police has said the final number of dead formally identified from the June 14 Grenfell tower block fire in west London is 71, including a stillborn baby.