Lakanal House fire: Panels caught fire 'too quickly'

Catherine Hickman Catherine Hickman was one of six people killed in the blaze

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Materials used in the refurbishment of a tower block caught fire "too quickly" in a blaze which claimed the lives of six people, an inquest heard.

Panels put into Lakanal House in south-east London, which caught fire in 2009, had four-and-a-half minutes of fire resistance.

The inquest jury at Lambeth Town Hall was told firefighters had expected them to have lasted one hour.

The panels were being put in to replace asbestos.

'Lamentable failure'

The inquest was also told a surveyor was not familiar with building regulations which relate to fire spreading.

James Cousins, a surveyor who was hired by contractor Apollo, said: "We put in materials that were less fire resistant than what was there before."

The surveyor said Southwark Council - the landlord - did not instruct him to make sure the refit met building regulations and that he would normally have acted on their behalf. However, the council told the inquest it was Apollo's duty.

John Hendy QC, the lawyer for the families of those that died, described it as "a fundamental breach of building regulations… a lamentable failure of the contractor Apollo".

Catherine Hickman, 31, Dayana Francisquini, 26, and her children, six-year-old Thais, and Felipe, three, were killed in the fire.

Helen Udoaka, 34, and her three-week-old daughter Michelle also died.

The inquest continues.

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