Thousands evacuated as 27 UK high-rise towers fail safety test

Team Udayavani, Jun 24, 2017, 5:54 PM IST

London (UK): Thousands of residents were today evacuated from four housing towers as the UK government in the wake of the deadly Grenfell Tower blaze found 27 high-rise residential blocks across Britain unsafe.

Residents of 650 flats in four tower blocks on an estate in the Swiss Cottage area of north London were evacuated last night by the local Camden Council, following tests ordered in the wake of the Grenfell Tower blaze on June 14, which claimed at least 79 lives and displaced hundreds others.

The estates evacuated were found to have cladding similar to Grenfell Tower, which Scotland Yard confirmed as a factor for the fire spreading rapidly through the 24-storey building after a fridge-freezer burst in one of the flats.

Local councils and housing authorities have been given until Monday to submit cladding samples for these tests to ensure the material used on the exterior of their residential blocks are not made up of similar flammable material as in the massive Grenfell Tower blaze in west London last week.

The Metropolitan Police, which had launched a criminal investigation into the Grenfell Tower tragedy, has said that detectives are keeping open the option of bringing manslaughter charges relating to the Grenfell fire.

Camden Council’s Labour party leader Georgia Gould said the council had acted “as swiftly as we possibly can” to ensure people’s safety after the fire service said they could not guarantee the residents’ safety in those blocks.

“I know it’s difficult, but Grenfell changes everything and I just don’t believe we can take any risk with our residents’ safety and I have to put them first,” she said.

“I offered to pay for fire stations to be stationed outside all of those blocks so we could have a couple of days to get the work done but the message was there was absolutely nothing I could do to make those blocks safe that night,” she added.

Refurbishment on the Chalcots Estate evacuated overnight was also overseen by Rydon, the company involved in the refit of Grenfell Tower, according to its website.

A statement released by Downing Street on behalf of Prime Minister Theresa May said: “My thoughts are with residents being evacuated in Camden while their homes are made safe tonight. We will work with and support the emergency services and relevant authorities to safeguard the public”.

Many residents have reacted with anger at being moved out of their homes and 83 have so far refused to leave their homes on the Chalcots Estate.

The council has said that if people still choose to not leave their homes then it would “become a matter for the fire services”.

Once the flats are evacuated, the external thermal cladding from five tower blocks on the Chalcots Estate will be removed.

There were also concerns raised about the insulation of gas pipes going into flats, and fire doors.
The council has secured 270 hotel rooms to house the residents.

Emergency accommodation has also been set up at Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre and at the Camden Centre in King’s Cross nearby.

“We’re encouraging all residents to stay with friends and family if they can, otherwise we’ll provide accommodation,” the council said.

The work on the tower blocks is expected to take three to four weeks.

Residents will be allowed into their flats at the weekend to collect more possessions under escort from the fire brigade.

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