Page last updated at 12:47 GMT, Monday, 6 July 2009 13:47 UK

Fatal fire block's layout probed

Forensic experts at Lakanal House
Investigators are probing how the fire spread quickly through the building

The design of a tower block in which a fire spread and killed six people is to be examined as it raises "big safety questions", London's mayor has said.

Boris Johnson described the fatal fire at Lakanal House, Camberwell, south east London, as "very disturbing".

Three women and three children died in the fire, which is thought to have started in a flat on the ninth floor.

A member of the London Assembly has demanded a public inquiry into the blaze on Friday.

Helen Udoaka, 34, and her three-week-old daughter Michelle died in the fire in the 12-storey block.

Dayana Francisquini, 26, her three-year-old son Filipe, her daughter, who has been named in media reports as six-year-old Thais, and Catherine Hickman, 31, also lost their lives.

Forensic experts and fire officials have been investigating the speed at which the fire spread through the building in Sceaux Gardens Estate.

Several residents have described the layout of the block, which only had one central staircase, as "a maze".

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Boris Johnson has visited Peckham fire station to meet some of the 100 firefighters who tackled the blaze.

Mr Johnson said the officers had done a "very, very good job in very, very hard circumstances" and said the death toll could have been higher.

"We will be looking at safety and why there were six casualties.

"The issue of building design is uppermost in people's minds.

"People don't understand what the safety routes are and that is something we need to get across.

"I hope very much that we are able to learn some lessons from it and to see what we can do to make these kind of flats safer."

A new building code for London would also be produced which would make sure "we have buildings that are safe from a criminal point of view and from a fire point of view too", he said.

'Not untypical'

London Assembly member Jenny Jones called for a public inquiry into the fire to ascertain whether 1960s tower blocks were "genuinely safe".

Michelle Udoaka
Three-week-old Michelle Udoaka was the youngest victim of the fire

Ms Jones, who chairs the London Assembly's planning and housing committee, said: "I think the first thing we have to have is a public inquiry, because we've got to know, not only for this block, but for all the other thousands of blocks in the rest of Britain, whether or not they are genuinely safe."

She also stressed the need for a register listing similar tower blocks, which should be updated with refurbishments they undergo.

London Fire Brigade Commissioner Ron Dobson said: "We are never going to stop them completely but we need to design buildings that, when fire does occur, protect the people in those buildings and enable them to escape safely."

Following the fire the leader of Southwark Council, Nick Stanton, said the design of the building was "not untypical" and that £3.5m had recently been spent on refurbishing it to meet current fire safety standards.

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