German city evacuates tower block containing flammable materials

A general view shows a high-rise residential building from which the city of Wuppertal evacuated around 80 people

BERLIN (Reuters) – The German city of Wuppertal, citing raised concerns after a deadly fire in London, on Tuesday began evacuating about 72 people from an 11-storey residential building after it was found to contain flammable materials, city officials said.

Fire inspectors have reviewed Wuppertal’s roughly 70 high-rise buildings, according to spokeswoman Martina Eckermann, since the London fire, which killed at least 79 people.

She said officials had been concerned about this particular building since 2010, but decided to act now after seeing how fire could spread rapidly via a flammable cladding or facade.

“We know it’s a burden for residents to be moved without any notice, but we felt we had to act immediately since there are clear dangers to life and limb,” Eckermann said.

She said those residents who could not move in with neighbors or friends would be given other lodgings until the owners of the building replaced the facade, a process that could be completed in a few weeks.

Eckermann said it was unclear if the flammable material was similar to that used in the London building. She said the Wuppertal building’s fire escape routes also relied on external balconies that could not be used if the facade material caught fire, and it was too tall to use ladders for evacuations.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a national investigation into the cladding, used on facades buildings mainly for insulation or to improve their appearance, after all those checked since the fire failed safety tests.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Louise Ireland)