Tuesday 22 August 2017

Fire safety fears see 800 families evacuated from five tower blocks

Residents leave the Taplow tower block on the Chalcots Estate in Camden, London, last night. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.
Residents leave the Taplow tower block on the Chalcots Estate in Camden, London, last night. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

Rozina Sabur London

Five tower blocks in Camden, north London, were evacuated last night at short notice to allow "urgent fire safety works" to take place.

Camden Council said 800 households were to be moved into temporary accommodation because the blocks were covered in similar cladding to the material used in the Grenfell Tower fire.

The high-rise buildings on the Chalcots estate in Swiss Cottage were being emptied last night after firefighters said they "could not guarantee our residents' safety", local council leader Georgia Gould said.

She told Sky News that a rest centre had been set up and residents were being found hotels and other accommodation.

It is the first council to evacuate a building in the wake of the tragedy.

Ms Gould said experts had been inspecting the buildings since it emerged cladding may have been behind the rapid spread of the Grenfell Tower fire.

"What we found was that the cladding was not up to the standard, it was not fire retardant," she said. "On Thursday night we had a public meeting with residents who shared a number of concerns that I had not been aware of.

"Grenfell changes everything. I don't believe we can take any risks with our residents' safety.

"We made the decision to move people into temporary accommodation. I know it's a scary time but we will make sure they are safe. We think it is about 800 households but it is an emerging picture."

Chalcots resident Shirley Philips told Sky she was given no notice before being told she must leave her home.

Disgusting

"I think it's absolutely disgusting. We've had the fire brigade all day, Camden Council, police. I had a fire safety check done today. Why have they left it until half past eight on Friday night to start getting residents out? Where do they think we're all going?"

The move came as it emerged that hospital buildings across Britain are being subjected to urgent fire safety tests over fears some may be covered in flammable cladding.

Schools, universities, offices and all other public buildings are also being checked for panels that may be a fire risk, Downing Street said yesterday.

A total of 14 high-rise buildings with cladding in nine council areas have now failed fire safety tests. Evacuations will be ordered of any others that are declared unsafe by fire brigade inspectors.

Scotland Yard said it was considering manslaughter charges after disclosing that the cladding and insulation on the outside of the fatal London tower failed fire safety tests.

It also emerged that the Grenfell Tower blaze was started when a Hotpoint fridge-freezer caught fire.

Owners of the same model, of which 64,000 were sold, have been told to contact the company as the UK government ordered tests to be carried out on similar models.

Tests on cladding samples from 600 tower blocks in England are being carried out on the orders of the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The search for bodies in Grenfell Tower, in which 79 people are thought to have died, could take until the end of the year, police said, such is the difficulty involved in finding human remains among the ashes. Investigators said it is possible that some may never be recovered. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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