Police: Deadly London tower blaze began in fridge freezer

LONDON, June 23 (Reuters) - A fire that killed at least 79 people at a London tower block started in a fridge freezer, and the outside cladding engulfed by the blaze has since been shown to fail all safety tests, London police said on Friday.

Investigators said they would consider bringing manslaughter charges over the disaster and had already seized material from a number of undisclosed organizations.

Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack said experts had now concluded the fire, the mostly deadly blaze in London since World War Two, had started in a Hotpoint fridge freezer, model FF175BP, which had not been subject to any recall.

The blaze has provoked anger and heaped pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May, who is fighting for her political survival after her party lost its parliamentary majority in a snap election at a time when Britain is beginning divorce talks with the European Union.

RELATED: A look at the deadly London apartment fire

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Flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in the Grenfell Tower apartment block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
TOPSHOT - Fire engulfs Grenfell Tower, a residential tower block on June 14, 2017 in west London. The massive fire ripped through the 27-storey apartment block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday, trapping residents inside as 200 firefighters battled the blaze. Police and fire services attempted to evacuate the concrete block and said 'a number of people are being treated for a range of injuries', including at least two for smoke inhalation. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Flames and smoke engulf Grenfell Tower, a residential block on June 14, 2017 in west London. The massive fire ripped through the 27-storey apartment block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday, trapping residents inside as 200 firefighters battled the blaze. Police and fire services attempted to evacuate the concrete block and said 'a number of people are being treated for a range of injuries', including at least two for smoke inhalation. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the emergency services are parked by Grenfell Tower, a residential block which was engulfed by a huge fire on June 14, 2017 in west London. The massive fire ripped through the 27-storey apartment block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday, trapping residents inside as 200 firefighters battled the blaze. Police and fire services attempted to evacuate the concrete block and said 'a number of people are being treated for a range of injuries', including at least two for smoke inhalation. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Local residents watch smoke billow from Grenfell Tower, a residential block on June 14, 2017 in west London. The massive fire ripped through the 27-storey apartment block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday, trapping residents inside as 200 firefighters battled the blaze. Police and fire services attempted to evacuate the concrete block and said 'a number of people are being treated for a range of injuries', including at least two for smoke inhalation. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14: Smoke rises after a huge fire engulfed the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London in the early hours of this morning on June 14, 2017 in London, England. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has declared the fire a major incident as more than 200 firefighters are still tackling the blaze while at least 50 people are receiving hospital treatment. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 14: A fire rages through a residential tower block, Grenfell Tower, with the entire building engulfed in flames on June 14, 2017 in Kensington, West London, England. More than 200 firefighters are attending the incident and there are reports of people trapped inside. No figures are available as to casualties. PHOTOGRAPH BY Paul Davey / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Paul Davey / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14: Smoke rises from the burning 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London on June 14, 2017 in London, England. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has declared the fire a major incident as more than 200 firefighters are still tackling the blaze while at least 50 people are receiving hospital treatment. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14: A photographer takes photos as smoke continues to rise from the building after a huge fire engulfed the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London in the early hours of this morning on June 14, 2017 in London, England. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has declared the fire a major incident as more than 200 firefighters are still tackling the blaze while at least 50 people are receiving hospital treatment. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14: A man looks distressed as he speaks to a fire fighter after a huge fire engulfed the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London in the early hours of this morning on June 14, 2017 in London, England. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has declared the fire a major incident as more than 200 firefighters are still tackling the blaze, while at least 50 people are receiving hospital treatment. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 14: Evacuated residents wait o the pavement near the scene after a fire raged through a residential tower block, Grenfell Tower, with the entire building engulfed in flames on June 14, 2017 in Kensington, West London, England. More than 200 firefighters are attending the incident and there are reports of people trapped inside. No figures are available as to casualties. PHOTOGRAPH BY Paul Davey / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Paul Davey / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Smoke billows from a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14: Smoke rises from the building after a huge fire engulfed the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London in the early hours of this morning on June 14, 2017 in London, England. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has declared the fire a major incident as more than 200 firefighters are still tackling the blaze while at least 50 people are receiving hospital treatment (Photo by Kate Green/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14: Fire fighters tackle the building after a huge fire engulfed the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London in the early hours of this morning on June 14, 2017 in London, England. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has declared the fire a major incident as more than 200 firefighters are still tackling the blaze while at least 50 people are receiving hospital treatment. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Local residents watch as Grenfell Tower is engulfed by fire on June 14, 2017 in west London. The massive fire ripped through the 27-storey apartment block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday, trapping residents inside as 200 firefighters battled the blaze. Police and fire services attempted to evacuate the concrete block and said 'a number of people are being treated for a range of injuries', including at least two for smoke inhalation. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Two men hug within the security cordon as Grenfell Tower is engulfed by fire on June 14, 2017 in west London. The massive fire ripped through the 27-storey apartment block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday, trapping residents inside as 200 firefighters battled the blaze. Police and fire services attempted to evacuate the concrete block and said 'a number of people are being treated for a range of injuries', including at least two for smoke inhalation. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters stand amid debris in a childrens playground near a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Two women sit on the grass after a tower block was severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
A firefighter directs a jet of water at a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Smoke billows from a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Emergency fire services tackle a blaze at Grenfell Tower near Notting Hill on 14th June 2017 in West London, United Kingdom. The huge fire engulfed the tower block, trapping many people in their homes. A number of fatalities are reported. The block of flats in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea,�billowed large plumes of smoke way above the capital after the blaze broke out in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Londoners came out on the streets to help, offer food and water, support and assistance to those who had lost their homes or didnt know the whereabouts of their friends and family. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
A firefighter directs a jet of water at a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Water and other drinks are laid out near a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Flames leap from a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
A man comforts a boy after a tower block was severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Firefighters stand amid debris in a childrens playground near a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
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The speed at which the fire engulfed the 24-story Grenfell Tower raised questions about the external cladding on the block.

Asked if the insulation and aluminum tiles used were acceptable for such buildings, McCormack told reporters: "No they're not.

"All I can say at the moment is they don't pass any of the safety tests. So that will form part of what is a manslaughter investigation."

Britain ordered an immediate technical examination of the Hotpoint fridge model to establish whether further action should be taken, but said there was no need for owners to switch off their appliances.

"We are working with the authorities to obtain access to the appliance so that we can assist with the ongoing investigations," said Whirlpool Corp, the world's largest maker of home appliances which owns the Hotpoint brand in the Europe and Asia Pacific regions.

In the United States, the brand now belongs to Haier, following the Chinese group's purchase of General Electric Co's appliance business.

SORROW

"Words cannot express our sorrow at this terrible tragedy," Whirpool said in a statement.

The company said 64,000 such fridge freezers were made by Indesit between 2006 and 2009 when the model was discontinued, some years before Whirlpool acquired Indesit.

The fire has acted as a focal point for anger at local authority funding cuts and, if more buildings are deemed unsafe, the government faces the task of rehousing people within existing social housing facilities which are stretched.

The government said it was urgently conducting tests on some 600 high-rise buildings in England which have exterior cladding, often added to insulate them or improve the external appearance of aging blocks. Some councils have begun removing the panels.

Grenfell Tower, in north Kensington, west London, had undergone an 8.7 million pound ($11 million) refurbishment which was completed in 2016, but residents of the more than 120 apartments had complained about its fire safety.

RELATED: Vigils and tributes to victims of London apartment fire

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A man looks at a message wall near the scene of the fire which destroyed the Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, west London, Britain June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Paul Hackett
A man gestures as people write messages on a wall near the scene of the fire which destroyed the Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, west London, Britain June 15, 2017. . REUTERS/Paul Hackett TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Missing person signs are displayed close to Grenfell Tower block, which was destroyed in a fire,west London, Britain June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Paul Hackett
A woman writes on a message wall near the scene of the fire which destroyed the Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
People light candles at a prayer vigil outside Notting Hill Methodist Church close to the tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Paul Hackett
People light candles at a prayer vigil outside Notting Hill Methodist Church close to the tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Paul Hackett
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 15: A Girl prays as a minute's silence is observed, taken on June 15, 2017 in London, England. Local residents and well-wishers gather at a short vigil outside Notting Hill Methodist Church near the scene of the Grenfell Tower Fire Disaster in which so far seventeen people have been reported killed, with dozens injured, many still missing and scores of people rendered homeless. PHOTOGRAPH BY Paul Davey / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Paul Davey / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 15: A woman is overcome with emotion - many local residents had friends and families in Grenfell Tower, taken on June 15, 2017 in London, England. Local residents and well-wishers gather at a short vigil outside Notting Hill Methodist Church near the scene of the Grenfell Tower Fire Disaster in which so far seventeen people have been reported killed, with dozens injured, many still missing and scores of people rendered homeless. PHOTOGRAPH BY Paul Davey / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Paul Davey / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
A child holds candles outside Notting hill Methodist Church following the blaze at Grenfell Tower, a residential tower block in west London on June 15, 2017. Firefighters searched for bodies today in a London tower block gutted by a blaze that has already left 17 dead, as questions grew over whether a recent refurbishment contributed to the fire. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 15: A man writes a message 'babies thrown from buildings (why) in 2017', on June 15, 2017 in London, England. In the aftermath of a fire that raged through a residential tower block, Grenfell Tower, in Kensington, West London that has claimed twelve lives so far, with many more missing and left hundreds homeless and injured. PHOTOGRAPH BY Paul Davey / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Paul Davey / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 15: People attend a vigil at Notting Hill Methodist Church near Grenfell Tower on June 15, 2017 in London, England. At least 17 people have been confirmed dead and dozens missing, after the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road was engulfed in flames in the early hours of June 14. The number of fatalities are expected to rise. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 15: Flowers are left on a fence near Grenfell Tower on June 15, 2017 in London, England. At least 17 people have been confirmed dead and dozens missing, after the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road was engulfed in flames in the early hours of June 14. The number of fatalities are expected to rise. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 15: Poster for missing people are seen on a wall near Grenfell Tower on June 15, 2017 in London, England. At least 17 people have been confirmed dead and dozens missing, after the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road was engulfed in flames in the early hours of June 14. The number of fatalities are expected to rise. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 15: Tributes and messages of condolence for the victims are seen on a wall near to the site of the Grenfell Tower fire on June 15, 2017 in London, England. At least 17 people have been confirmed dead and dozens missing, after the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road was engulfed in flames in the early hours of June 14. The number of fatalities are expected to rise. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan hugs a resident while visiting Grenfell Tower, a residential tower block in west London which was gutted by a blaze on June 15, 2017. Firefighters searched for bodies today in a London tower block gutted by a blaze that has already left 17 dead, as questions grew over whether a recent refurbishment contributed to the fire. / AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Two women embrace after writing messages on the wall of condolence following the blaze at Grenfell Tower, a residential tower block in west London on June 15, 2017. Firefighters searched for bodies today in a London tower block gutted by a blaze that has already left 12 dead, as questions grew over whether a recent refurbishment contributed to the fire. / AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 15: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hugs councillor Mushtaq Lasharie as he arrives at St Clement's Church in west London where volunteers have provided shelter and support for people affected by the fire at Grenfell Tower, on June 15, 2017 in West London, England. (Photo by David Mirzoeff - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 15: People write tributes and messages of condolences for the victims on a wall near to the site of the Grenfell Tower fire on June 15, 2017 in London, England. At least twelve people have been confirmed dead and dozens missing after the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road was engulfed in flames in the early hours of June 14. The number of fatalities are expected to rise. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14: Prays are said and candles are lit outside Notting Hill Methodist Church near the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London on June 14, 2017 in London, England. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has declared the fire a major incident as more than 200 firefighters are still tackling the blaze, while at least 50 people are receiving hospital treatment. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 14: The Grenfell Tower catches up fire on June 14, 2017 in London, England. PHOTOGRAPH BY Matthew Chattle / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Matthew Chattle/Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
A woman lights a candle outside a church near a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Paul Hackett
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McCormack said the police investigation would look at the entire facade of the building, how the building was constructed and the refurbishment work. She said it would examine all aspects of the cladding: the aluminum tiles, the insulation behind it, how it was fitted to building and the installation.

As well as possible manslaughter, police will consider health and safety offenses and breaches of other building regulations. McCormack said all companies involved in the building and refurbishment of the building would be reviewed.

In addition to the criminal investigation, police and firefighters are continuing painstaking efforts to locate the victims. So far only nine people have been formally identified and police say the remains of some might never be found, the blaze having been so fierce.

Some locals believe the official number of those dead or missing presumed dead is lower than the true figure, and McCormack acknowledged they might not know everyone who was in the building as some people might fear coming forward because they were in the country illegally.

She said the government had given assurances they were not interested in anyone's immigration status.

"I remain really concerned though that we do not have a complete picture," she said. "I fear that there are more." (Additional reporting by Alistair Smout and Martinne Geller, writing by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by Ralph Boulton)

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