Fire destroys London homes, again

This 9 September 2019 video from England is called Worcester Park fire: blaze rips through four-storey block of flats in London.

By Thomas Scripps in England:

Fire destroys another residential tower block in London

13 September 2019

Another inferno has torn through a large block of London residential flats. Just over two years after the Grenfell Tower inferno, the raging fire completely destroyed an entire structure—this time in Worcester Park in the borough of Sutton, in the southwest of the capital.

Residents of the four-storey building’s 23 apartments in Sherbrooke Way—in what is known as the Hamptons estate—were forced to evacuate in the early hours of Monday morning, as 125 firefighters and 20 fire engines worked till dawn to tackle the blaze. Fortunately, no one was killed or injured. But as the building was completely wrecked, the homes and possessions of all its occupants were incinerated.

As with Grenfell, the local community, not the authorities, are at the forefront of relief efforts, with many already donating large amounts of items to those affected. Over £14,000 has also been raised through an online crowdfunding page.

Fire investigators are currently working to determine the exact cause of the blaze and the reasons for its rapid spread across the building. However, there are already serious questions raised about the safety of other buildings in the Worcester Park development and nationwide of a similar type.

The fire alarms in the building failed to warn sleeping families of the danger. Darren Nicholson told reporters that alarms were active in the community areas but not in his own flat. He was alerted by the sound of “crackling” and, opening his curtains, saw the flames. Nicholson said the fire may have begun on the wooden balconies of the building.

Dean Fowler, who lived on the top floor of the building, had to be woken by somebody banging on his door: “I then heard someone screaming ‘there’s a fire, get out,’ and I just got my boys and went.”

Stephen Nobrega, another resident, said, “I was woken up by my missus at about 1:20 a.m., screaming and shouting, ‘Fire! Fire!’

“I heard a lot of residents outside and by that point somebody was already banging on my window and pressing my buzzer, so I knew it was quite serious.

“I got out of bed, got what you see me wearing on, got the kids with something on and managed to get us all out safely. … The most important thing is everyone’s alive. There are no fatalities to my knowledge.

“But everything we had in there—from simple things like clothes to sentimental stuff which you’ll never get back—I’ve got photos of the kids on family holidays, sentimental bits and pieces, gone forever… it’s heart-breaking.”

He praised the efforts of the fire service, explaining, “Within about 20 minutes, fairly quick, [the fire] started ripping through, going from apartment to apartment, right to left, and then it started going down and caught alight on the other side.”

The massive scale of the fire is indicated in the comments of James Gurvin, who lives in a neighbouring block. Cited in the Times, he said, “My daughter came running in to my room at around 1:30 a.m. because she’d left her window open and there was smoke pouring in. The heat was unbelievable. I grabbed my kids and the missus and ran downstairs, knocking on doors and ringing buzzers. Within an hour the whole thing had gone up. It was terrifying.”

The burned-down set of flats was part of a 645-home estate, whose residents are fearful that their own homes might be at risk. Residents are now demanding that fire safety checks be carried out on all buildings. So far, only the block of flats nearest the building where the fire took place has been evacuated. The Metropolitan Thames Valley housing association has begun 24/7 waking watch patrols at the 15 buildings it administers on the development.

Safety concerns are not limited to the local area. Worcester Park—after the terrible death and destruction that took the lives of 72 people at Grenfell Tower—highlights the complete disinterest of the ruling elite in providing safe homes for the population.

The Royal Institute of British Architects issued a statement on the Worcester Park fire, warning, “This fire demonstrates the need for sprinklers in residential buildings, and fire warning systems in individual flats, not just in communal parts.”

As of last month, 95 percent of 2,107 local authority-owned tower blocks taller than 10 storeys did not have any sprinklers fitted. Residents of a set of flats in Barking, east London, who suffered a severe fire just three months ago, said that neither the sprinkler system nor the fire alarm system had worked.

Weekly trade publication Inside Housing revealed that while the cladding used at Worcester Park was, according to the developer, Berkeley, made of a non-combustible concrete composite material, the building itself was constructed using a timber frame.

The potential dangers of constructing structures in this way were highlighted less than a month ago when scores of deaths were narrowly averted in a fire in a retirement home in Crewe. Over 70 firefighters were called to the scene, operating 16 fire engines. Assistant Chief Fire Officer Gus O’Rourke said he was “extremely shocked” at how quickly the fire had spread. This forced the incident commander to quickly override the “stay put” policy for the property and encourage the home’s 150 residents to evacuate—a decision the fire service said “undoubtedly saved lives.”

Commenting on the Crewe fire, surveyor and fire safety expert Arnold Tarling told Inside Housing, “The timber frame is the big problem … When fire gets into the cavities there is not much you can do. You see it time and again with timber frames where the building is completely lost.”

Architect Sam Webb told the same publication, “What happens in a timber frame building, if you haven’t got sprinklers, is that you get flashover very quickly.” Flashover is the point at which all combustible materials in a room reach a temperature that causes them to spontaneously ignite, filling the room with flames.

In the last two decades, a series of similar incidents have given rise to the same concerns, which have never been addressed. In 2002, a fire in a Bedfordshire immigration centre destroyed half the building and injured six people. It was later revealed that the fire services had advised that sprinklers be fitted, in part due to the building’s timber frame, but that this had not been done.

In 2004, a timber frame structure in Barnet caught fire while under construction and collapsed within 20 minutes, requiring the evacuation of 2,000 residents from surrounding homes.

A fire in Peckham in 2009 forced 310 people to evacuate, another in Camberwell in 2010 forced 150 to do so, and blazes in Hackney and Greenwich took the number of major timber frame fires in London to five in a five-year period.

The London Assembly then launched an investigation into fire risks in tall, timber-framed buildings, which recommended an immediate review of the relevant building regulations. But this was ignored by the incoming Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition. Significantly, the block of flats destroyed in Worcester Park was completed only in 2010 and built under conditions of the lax regulation regime demanded by the corporations and facilitated by central and local government.

Even if the additional risks of timber framing can be neutralised by proper design and installation, the state of building practices and mass deregulation carried out over decades means that such steps cannot be reliably ensured. Speaking to Building Design, an architecture magazine, Ash Sakula Architects founding partner Robert Sakula said of the use of timber framing in Worcester Park, “Fire shouldn’t be able to get into the cavity” in the first place. He and Annalie Riches, co-founder of Stirling Prize-shortlisted architecture practice Mikhail Riches, noted in this connection that there are serious problems with “design-and-build” construction contracts:

“In lots of design-and-build projects, the architects are not even wanted on-site,” Riches said. “If it was design and build, you wouldn’t necessarily know if what you specified had been used.”

That is, if developers fail to ensure the proper installation of fireproof external cladding or internal plasterboard—or use substandard materials—then safe designs can be made dangerous.

Events like the Worcester Park fire reveal that the whole fire prevention process—from building design, to construction, to safety checks, to the fire service—has been gutted by corporate cost-cutting and government cutbacks. Such is the profit lust of the corporate and political elite that not even the deaths of 72 people in Grenfell and those who have perished in other fires have moved them to reverse this trend.


Fukushima nuclear disaster is still continuing

This video says about itself:

Ground zero at Fukushima nuclear power plant | 60 Minutes Australia

When Japan was rocked by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, we told ourselves the worst was behind us. Tens of thousands dead, an economy shattered, whole communities razed. Surely the Japanese had suffered enough. But as Liz Hayes discovered when she travelled to ground zero weeks later, the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is still leaking. And judging from the experience at Chernobyl, recovery won’t be measured in years. More like centuries.

By Ryusei Takahashi, The Japan Times:

Eight years after triple nuclear meltdown, Fukushima No. 1’s water woes show no signs of ebbing

OKUMA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – Nearly a thousand storage tanks are scattered across the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, holding a staggering 1.1 million tons of treated water used to keep its melted reactor cores cool while they rust in the sun.

Plant manager Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., or Tepco, plans to build more of the gigantic tanks to hold another 0.27 million tons, which is roughly the equivalent of 108 Olympic-size swimming pools. The new tanks are expected reach full capacity in four or five years.

Each tank takes seven to 10 days to fill and holds between 1,000 to 1,200 tons of liquid, Tepco officials told reporters during a tour in February organized by the Japan National Press Club. It’s been eight years since Fukushima No. 1 suffered three core meltdowns triggered by tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake, but the situation with the tanks may be a sign Tepco has yet to get the facility under control.

“Space isn’t a big issue at this point in time, but five or 10 years from now, after we’ve started removing the melted fuel debris, we’re going to need facilities to store and preserve it,” Akira Ono, president of Fukushima No. 1 Decontamination and Decommissioning Engineering Co., a Tepco unit overseeing the decommissioning process, said at a news conference in January.

The water issue is eating up both space and resources, but a solution is unlikely to emerge anytime soon.”

Fukushima: Japan will have to dump radioactive water into Pacific, minister says. Posted on September 10, 2019. More than a million tonnes of contaminated water lies in storage but power company says it will run out of space by 2022: here.

Nuclear fuel debris removal at Fukushima plant could start with No. 2 reactor — The Japan Times: here.

Reptiles in Florida after Hurricane Dorian

This 5 September 2019 video from Florida in the USA says about itself:

Check out the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian at Kamp Kenan and discover a couple of surprises as well! Spoiler alert I try to show the blue iguana that ran and we have new wild gator resident in the turtle pond.

Hurricane Dorian racing toward Nova Scotia after lashing Massachusetts: here.

BAHAMAS TOWN FLATTENED BY DORIAN Nearly a week after disaster roared in from the sea, Marsh Harbour on Abaco island felt empty Saturday. A hot wind whistled through stands of decapitated pine trees and homes that collapsed during the most powerful hurricane in the northwestern Bahamas’ recorded history. Elsewhere in the Bahamas, rescuers were still trying to reach some communities isolated by floodwaters and debris after the disaster that killed at least 43 people. [AP]

NOAA WARNED STAFFERS NOT TO CONTRADICT TRUMP A top official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned staffers last week not to contradict Trump’s false claims about Hurricane Dorian’s path, according to The Washington Post. [HuffPost]

NOAA TO INVESTIGATE AGENCY’S SUPPORT OF TRUMP’S FALSE CLAIMS The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s chief scientist will investigate whether the agency’s response to Trump’s misleading tweets about Hurricane Dorian violated NOAA policy. [HuffPost]

Hurricane Dorian: Tens of thousands homeless in the Bahamas as damage assessed on Canadian coast: here.

The destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian lends weight to the prediction of climate scientists in the United States and internationally that as global warming continues unabated, hurricanes will increase in severity and intensity: here.

Trump blocks refugees from Bahamas as humanitarian catastrophe unfolds: here.

As the official death count from Hurricane Dorian rose to 50 on Tuesday, local Bahamian press reports are estimating thousands killed from the Category 5 storm over the past week: here.

Hurricane Dorian in the USA

This 6 September 2019 CBS TV video from the USA says about itself:

Hurricane Dorian causes flooding in Charleston, South Carolina

More than 200,000 people were without power in South Carolina as Hurricane Dorian lashed the state’s coast, and flooding is a major concern in the Charleston area. CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas joined CBSN from Charleston with more.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Hurricane Dorian has travelled along the coastline of South and North Carolina and brought a lot of wind and heavy rain. In the southeastern United States, at least four people have been killed by the natural disaster that previously left the inhabitants of the Bahamas in despair. The death toll there has since risen to thirty.

Historic Charleston suffered from heavy rainfall. Streets became blank and were strewn with fallen trees, branches and disconnected electricity cables. 108 roads in and around the city were closed, of which 26 due to flooding.

At least 250,000 homes and businesses in the southeastern US were without power.

DORIAN DEATH TOLL RISES – TO 30 Carrying possessions in plastic bags, some weary Bahamians whose homes were smashed by Hurricane Dorian waited for a flight out of the disaster zone as an international humanitarian effort to help the Caribbean country gained momentum. The death toll in the Bahamas is now 30 as the storm batters the Carolina coast. [AP]