Around 800 homes evacuated in London over fire safety concerns

Five towers in the residential area of Swiss Cottage were evacuated as a precautionary measure in the wake of the deadly fire in Grenfell Tower.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A resident is evacuated from the Taplow Tower residential block in north London, June 23, 2017.

Residents of 800 London apartments were hurriedly evacuated on Saturday due to fire safety fears after urgent testing prompted by the deadly Grenfell Tower inferno.

The thermal 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.

TRT World's Shamim Chowdhury has more from London.

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."

Camden Council said they had secured "hundreds of hotel beds for Chalcots' residents. We're encouraging all residents to stay with friends and family if they can, otherwise we'll provide accommodation."

Failing safety tests

In an update on the Grenfell investigation, Fiona McCormack from the London police said: "We are looking at every criminal offence from manslaughter onwards."

Referring to the tiles and insulation on the outside of the building, she said: "All I can say at the moment is they don't pass any safety tests."

McCormack said police were investigating companies involved in the building and refurbishment of the tower, and possible "health and safety and fire safety offences".

The cladding was installed on the 24-storey council-owned Grenfell Tower, which was built in 1974, as part of a refurbishment completed last year.

It has prompted a wider review of social housing which has identified at least 600 towers in England with similar cladding.

McCormack said all "complete bodies" had been removed from the burnt-out tower and there was "a terrible reality that we may not find or identify everyone who died due to the intense heat".

She said officers had been through all levels of the tower and would be installing an external elevator to facilitate completing the forensic search, which could take until the end of the year.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies