5 London towers evacuated over fire safety fears

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LONDON: Residents of 800 London flats were hurriedly evacuated on Saturday due to fire safety fears over their tower blocks’ external cladding, after urgent testing prompted by the deadly Grenfell Tower inferno.

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The cladding on the five Chalcots Estate towers is similar to that used on Grenfell, widely blamed for the rapid spread of the massive blaze last week that is presumed to have killed 79 people.

The dramatic decision follows urgent testing of the towers’ exteriors, which were installed by the same contractor as the Grenfell Tower. As a result, Chalcots residents were being sent to hotels across the city.

LEAVING COMFORT FOR SAFETY Residents leave the Taplow Tower residential block on the Chalcots Estate in north London on Friday (Saturday in Manila) as it is evacuated because of fire safety concerns. AFP PHOTO

Just hours earlier, police said that manslaughter charges could be brought over the Grenfell inferno, after finding that the fire started with a faulty fridge and the building’s cladding had failed safety tests.

“Grenfell changes everything and I don’t believe we can take any risks,” said Georgia Gould, leader of the Camden Council local authority, told reporters, as residents left the five Chalcots Estate towers.

“We could not be sure that people could be safe.

“We had to do this. We have to act on fire service advice.”

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

“The cost we can deal with later.”

The council has been booking hotels across London and the works are expected to take up to four weeks.

Michelle Urquhart, who has been living in the Chalcots Estate’s Bray tower, said the situation was “frightening.”

“I don’t know where we are going to go.

“One man in a suit said to me ‘you can’t stay here tonight’.

“We have been living in these flats for the last 10 years with this cladding.”

Chalcots resident Shirley Philips told Sky News television she had been given no notice before being told she must leave her home.

AFP

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