800 Camden homes evacuated after Grenfell fire
The Taplow tower block will be evacuated for urgent fire safety work
Camden Council will evacuate 800 households from five tower blocks tonight amid fire safety concerns.
The move follows news that similar cladding was used on the Chalcots Estate to that which spread the Grenfell Tower fire in Kensington earlier this month.
Council leader Georgia Gould said that, following checks, insulation was found to be safe safe but external cladding on the blocks “was not up to the standard that we wanted and was not fire retardant”.
She added that the “really really difficult decision” had been made to evacuate the blocks while urgent fire safety work is completed.
She said it is thought the work would take three to four weeks.
“We realise that this is hugely distressing for everyone affected and we will be doing all we can, alongside the London Fire Brigade and other authorities, to support our residents at this difficult time,” Ms Gould said.
“The Grenfell fire changes everything – we need to do everything we can to keep residents safe.”
Residents are being moved out tonight and sent initially to a rest centre at Swiss Cottage Library before council workers allocate them accommodation in hotels or, if possible, with family and friends.
Ms Gould said: “I know this is difficult but…I don’t believe we can take any risks with our residents’ safety and I have to put them first.
“We know it’s a scary time but we’ll make sure they’re safe.”
79 people are dead or missing presumed dead after the Grenfell Tower fire
The Chalcots estate has five tower blocks – four 22 storey blocks and one 18 storey block.
Initially the council had said only Taplow Tower would be evacuated and Sky News Reporter Dan Whitehead said the scene there was one of “confusion”.
Taplow resident Shirley Phillips said she had only heard about the evacuation on Sky News, adding: “We’re told we’ll be out for two to four weeks.
“I’m going over to the emergency centre and they’ve told me they’ll find me somewhere to go.
“I’ve got a little bag together. I’ve got some underwear, some dog food, a night gown… I haven’t got anything else.”
She said she was given “no notice” of what had happened.
“They’ve had the fire brigade here all day, Camden Council, police…why have they left it til 8.30 at night to start get residents out. Where do they think we’re all going?”
Bob O’Toole from the residents’ association said he had only been told about the evacuation about an hour earlier, adding: “We want to keep the residents safe – we don’t want any more disasters”.
Fire safety expert Stephen MacKenzie told Sky News: “I think (the council has) done the sensible thing in this case.
“I’m at a loss as to why Theresa May has not convened (emergency committee) Cobra today to get emergency arrangements led by central government to support local authorities, to give the residents the necessary reassurance and address this issue.”
Sky News Correspondent Paul Kelso said: “It did not feel like a situation yesterday where they were going to be evacuating people but clearly they discovered something.
“It’s obviously a tragedy and scandal in west London at the Grenfell Tower but it’s now emerging as a picture of a national scandal.”
Courtesy of Sky News