A massive fire at a residential high-rise building in London last week that killed dozens was caused by a faulty refrigerator, police said Friday.
Detective superintendent Fiona McCormack of London's Metropolitan Police Service said at news conference Friday that the deadly blaze started in a HotPoint fridge-freezer, model no. FF175P, that was not previously subject to a product recall. The manufacturer will conduct further testing on the appliance, McCormack said.
Evidence indicates the initial flames from the fridge-freezer were not started deliberately. Witnesses interviewed by police described hearing one resident claim his appliance was responsible, according to McCormack.
But investigators are still trying to determine how the blaze grew so quickly.
"Our investigation is seeking to establish how the fire started and the speed that it spread as it took hold of the building," McCormack told reporters. "We have been told the speed it spread at was unexpected, so importantly we will establish why this happened."
Investigators believe the fire on June 14 started around 1 a.m. local time on the fourth floor of the 24-story Grenfell Tower. The London Fire Brigade dispatched more than 200 firefighters, at least 40 fire engines and about 20 ambulance crews in an effort to battle the flames that engulfed the apartment building in the West London neighborhood of North Kensington.
At least 79 people are missing and presumed dead from the conflagration. Nine of the deceased have now been formally identified, but McCormack said investigators may never be able to identify all of the victims.
In addition to those killed, the inferno injured at least 74 people.
The Metropolitan Police Service, which is leading the investigation, is examining the construction of the building, including its recent refurbishment. Samples of the Grenfell Tower's aluminum composite tiles and insulation were analyzed and have failed all safety tests, according to McCormack.
"Preliminary tests show the insulation samples collected from Grenfell Tower combusted soon after the test started," she told reporters at the news conference. "The initial tests on equivalent aluminum composite tiles failed the safety tests."
Investigators will now try to determine whether the use of those materials was illegal, McCormack added.
McCormack also told reporters that police are considering manslaughter charges among the criminal offenses.
"We will identify and investigate any criminal offense and, of course, given the deaths of so many people we are considering manslaughter, as well as criminal offenses and breaches of legislation and regulations," she said.
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