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South Tyrone inferno ‘fears’ follow tower block tragedy

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

South Tyrone inferno ‘fears’ follow tower block tragedy thumbnailSouth Tyrone Hospital.

DUNGANNON'S South Tyrone Hospital is at the centre of fire safety fears in the wake of London's residential tower inferno tragedy.

Concern has been expressed over the type of cladding used in renovation work to the exterior of the Dungannon hospital.

There are fears the horrific inferno at the Grenfell Tower in north Kensington, London last Wednesday, which is believed to have claimed 79 lives to date, could be repeated at the South Tyrone Hospital.

Callers to the Courier are fearful the type of cladding used during renovation work to the South Tyrone Hospital in Dungannon several years ago is similar to that used on the Grenfell Tower.

It is claimed the type of cladding on the outside of Grenfell Tower, installed in 2015 during a refurbishment, had a polyethylene - or plastic - core, instead of a more fireproof alternative with a mineral core.

And this type of cladding could create an additional fire risk, according to some experts.

The process of applying the rain-proof frontage can create a 25mm-30mm cavity between the cladding and the insulation behind it, according to Arnold Tarling, chartered surveyor and fire expert with property firm Hindwoods.

He stated: "This can have the effect of creating a wind tunnel and also traps any burning material between the rain cladding and the building.

"So had it been insulated per se, the insulation could fall off and fall away from the buiilding, but this is all contained inside," added Mr Tarling.

The Courier contacted the Southern Trust and asked what type of cladding was used on the exterior of the South Tyrone Hospital.

We specifically enquired if the type of cladding had a polyethylene - or plastic - core instead of a more fireproof alternative with a mineral core?

The Southern Trust refused to say what type of cladding was used.

In a statement to the Courier, the Southern Trust would only say: "In line with the recent Department of Health communication to all HSC bodies, The Trust is undertaking an immediate assessment of Fire Safety precautions of Trust facilities including checks on the type of cladding used.

"All necessary precautions will be taken to ensure the safety of staff and patients."

Refurbishment work to upgrade the external facade of the main tower block at the South Tyrone Hospital was carried out in 2013.

The Courier, reporting on the refurbishment plans at the time, said they were part of a £3 million investment and included the replacement of the exterior facade "with modern cladding", new windows and essential structural repairs.

An office is also located in the South Tyrone Hospital for the Assembly's Health Minister.

It was set up previously for the former Health Minister Michelle O'Neill and the office is classed as a 'Ministerial Private Office' and is sited in one of the former nurses quarters of the hospital.

This week a Book of Condolence to those who tragically lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower inferno was opened by Mid-Ulster District Council.

At the time of going to Press, 79 people are believed to have died and nine people remain in critical care in London hospitals following the Grenfell Tower inferno in the early hours of Wednesday.

Eighteen people remain in hospital following the blaze which has shocked the UK and it is understood that the death toll could rise still further.

The fire was reported at the 24-storey block, Grenfell Tower, in North Kensington, in the early hours of the morning.

Forty fire engines and more than 200 firefighters tackled the blaze in the 24-storey residential tower.

Hundreds of people were inside, most of them sleeping. Many were woken by neighbours, or shouts from below, and fled the building. Fire crews rescued 65 adults and children, but many others stayed in their homes, trapped by smoke and flames.

Dozens of people left homeless spent the night in makeshift rescue centres and money and aid has been sent from all quarters.

It is believed the type of cladding on the outside of Grenfell Tower, installed in 2015 during a refurbishment, had a polyethylene - or plastic - core, instead of a more fireproof alternative with a mineral core.

Similar cladding was used in high-rise buildings hit by fires in France, the UAE and Australia, he said.

Construction firm Rydon, which carried out an £8.6million refurbishment of the exterior of Grenfell Tower, installing cladding and new windows, claimed all its work "met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards".

An emergency number - 0800 0961 233 - has been set up for anyone concerned about friends or family.

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