Five London tower blocks evacuated over
fire safety concerns
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[June 24, 2017]
By Kate Holton and Jamillah Knowles
LONDON (Reuters) - Thousands of residents
in a sprawling north London housing estate were forced to leave their
apartments late on Friday after fire checks carried out in the wake of
the deadly Grenfell Tower blaze found the buildings to be unsafe.
Amid chaotic scenes, residents clutching children, pets and small
amounts of clothing and food emerged from five tower blocks to sleep on
air beds in a local sports center after hearing on the news that their
buildings were being evacuated.
Fire checks have been carried out on some 600 high-rise buildings across
England after a fire ravaged a social tower block in west London last
week, killing at least 79 people.
"I know it's difficult but Grenfell changes everything," Georgia Gould,
Leader of Camden Council, said in a statement late on Friday. "I don't
believe we can take any risks with our residents' safety."
Police investigating the cause of the deadly 24-storey Grenfell Tower
blaze have said the fire started in a fridge but spread rapidly due to
the use of external cladding on the building, trapping residents in
their beds as they slept.
The cladding has since failed all safety checks.
The fire has become a flashpoint for public anger at Prime Minister
Theresa May's record in government and cuts to local authority budgets.
Grenfell Tower is situated in Kensington, one of the richest boroughs in
Battling to save her position after losing her majority in a June 8
election, May has promised to do everything she can to protect those
residents who survived the fire and to improve the quality and safety of
public housing in Britain.
The London Fire Brigade said it had found a number of fire safety issues
at the Chalcots Estate in Camden, north London, and advised that
residents should leave the building until they were resolved.
Residents complained of first hearing about the evacuation from the
media and getting very short notice to leave from city officials going
door to door. Not all residents agreed to go.
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A resident is evacuated from the Burnham Tower residential block as
a precautionary measure following concerns over the type of cladding
used on the outside of the building on the Chalcots Estate in north
London, Britain, June 24, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
The council's leader, Gould, said it would take up to four weeks to
repair the blocks that were evacuated and said that some 4,000
residents were affected.
"It was farcical communication," 21-year-old Daniel Tackaberry told
Reuters outside a nearby sports center where the local council had
laid out air beds for people for whom they could not find hotels.
"You don't get everyone to leave this quickly."
British police have said they are considering bringing manslaughter
charges over the Grenfell fire, the most deadly blaze in London
since World War Two.
Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack was asked on Friday whether
the insulation and aluminium tiles used on Grenfell were acceptable
for such buildings. "No they're not," she said.
"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
As well as possible manslaughter, police will consider health and
safety offences and breaches of other building regulations.
(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Toby Chopra)
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