Hundreds evacuated from London high-rises as Grenfell Tower fire fallout widens


Camden Council has warned it may force residents to leave their tower block if they do not voluntarily evacuate so urgent fire safety work can be carried out.

The move comes as a vast operation is under way across the United Kingdom to identify buildings with cladding like that used on the Grenfell Tower fire in north Kensington where a fire killed at least 79 people.

Camden Council said it chose to evacuate the buildings on the Chalcots Estate late Friday after fire inspectors reported that the blocks were "not safe for people to sleep in overnight".

But some residents of the Camden buildings, collectively known as Chalcots Estate, expressed frustration with the lack of information they received about the evacuations.

"I've made the really, really hard decision to move the people living there into temporary accommodation while we do the urgent works to guarantee safety", Gould told reporters outside the public housing complex.

Residents are being told to go to the rest centre at Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre where they can talk to council workers who will help them find temporary accommodation.

Work had been due to begin on stripping cladding from buildings on the Chalcots estate, but Camden Council ordered the "decant" of residents on Friday evening following further checks and concerns over "gas pipe insulation". "That's not going to fit all the four tower blocks", she said.

In an update on the Grenfell investigation, Fiona McCormack from the London police said: "We are looking at every criminal offence from manslaughter onwards". "I don't believe we can take any risks with our residents' safety".

25-year-old Ayman Ali, who lives on the ground floor of one the Chalcots towers, said that no one had asked him to evacuate his flat: "I've had no contact from anyone from the council for 24 hours or fire wardens so I made a decision to stay." .

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"The relevant local authorities and local fire services have been informed, and, as I speak, they are taking all possible steps to ensure buildings are safe and to inform affected residents", May said.

Councils were told to give details to the government about the cladding they used in the tower blocks by Monday.

Police said on Friday that the fire at Grenfell was started by a faulty refrigerator but quickly spread through the building due to the highly-flammable cladding, as well as tiles and insulation that failed safety tests. At least 79 people died in the June 14 fire, which engulfed the building so quickly overnight that firefighters were unable to reach numerous victims.

The government said Saturday that the cladding samples that failed fire safety tests came from 34 apartment towers in cities including London, Manchester, Plymouth and Portsmouth.

"Words can not express our sorrow at this awful tragedy", Whirlpool said in a statement.

"We know it's a scary time but we will make sure that they stay safe", said Gould.

The government has called on all building owners, public and private, to submit samples of their cladding material for testing. McCormack acknowledged they might not know everyone who was in the building as some people might fear coming forward because they were in the country illegally.

A massive fire had engulfed Grenfell Tower in North Kensington earlier this month, killing more than 80 people and injuring several others.

Ms Gould said: "We definitely, definitely can get you housing for your dog..."