Nearly 4,000 residents around the United Kingdom were forcibly moved from their apartments and into emergency shelters during the week of June 26 because the cladding on their buildings was determined to be hazardous and potentially incendiary. The revelation came in the wake of the catastrophic Grenfell Tower fire on June 14, which left thousands homeless and at least 79 dead.

FILE – In this Friday, June 16, 2017 file photo, emergency workers walk on the roof of the fire-gutted Grenfell Tower in London, after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building. British authorities say they won’t prosecute anyone who unlawfully sublet apartments in the west London tower block before it was devastated by fire. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

The evacuations impact lower income communities in Manchester, Plymouth, Portsmouth, and London where cladding encasing the towers was found to be flammable, in addition to problems with gas insulation and door stops. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said further testing “is running around the clock.” He believes the evacuation of between 650-800 apartments was a necessary precaution.

The Grenfell Tower was covered in aluminum composite panels (ACP) with a polyethylene core and highly flammable panels, which were intended to make the building more energy efficient. Instead, the panels have been the blame for the rapid spread of the fire, which raced to the top of the 24-story building within minutes. The same type of cladding was blamed for the rapid spread of a fire at the Lacrosse Building in Melbourne in 2014 and has been implicated in fires in the United Arab Emirates and China.

The panels are the cheapest and most widely used of the three most common types of ACPs and are not authorized for external use on high-rise buildings in Australia. They cost about 13 percent less per square meter than fire-resistant ACPs, which have a combined mineral and polyethylene core.

When the refurbishment project began in 2012 with the aim of improving the 1970s-building’s insulation and making it more attractive, the use of fireproof zinc panels was proposed in a planning application submitted by architects Studio E, according to {The Times} (UK). But following a series of cost-cutting decisions, a revised planning application submitted two years later is said to require the aluminum cladding, which has a flammable plyethylene core, instead.

Arnold Tarling with the Association of Specialist Fire Protection told {The Sun} (UK) that the foam “went up like matchsticks” and its waterproof zinc coating made it even harder for firefighters to douse the blaze. “The cladding looks lovely, it’s cheap, complies with regulations and gives the building a high environmental rating, Tarling said. “But it’s a silent killer.”

Residents have grown weary and livid over what some describe as a wall of confusion. One resident, Shirley Phillips, said she had been given no notice at all about moving out on the evening of June 27, and had simply been told to get a bag together and leave. Advised to go to a leisure center where she found a place to stay, no additional information or transportation was offered.

“I think it’s disgusting. We’ve had the fire brigade here all day, Camden council and police, and then I had a fire safety check. Why have they left it until 8.30 at night to start getting residents out?” Phillips lamented. “Where do they think we’re going?”

The council said residents would be out of their homes for three to four weeks while it completes fire-safety upgrades. The government has also encouraged private landlords to send in samples for testing but they are not under any obligation to do so.