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  1. ITV Report

600 households in Camden tower blocks evacuated in wake of fatal Grenfell Tower fire

  • Video report by ITV News Reporter Mike Griffiths

Up to 4,000 people from 600 households on the Chalcots estate in north London have been evacuated to allow "urgent fire safety works" to take place.

Residents from all five towers on the estate were initially said to be being rehoused in temporary accommodation, but in the early hours of Saturday morning one of the towers was declared safe and those living there were allowed to stay.

Despite the safety concerns and ensuing evacuations, 83 people have refused to leave their homes on the estate.

The evacuation came following a joint inspection that found the blocks used cladding similar to that on Grenfell Tower in Kensington, where a fire killed at least 79 people.

Within hours of the evacuation starting Camden Council tweeted that a rest centre set up to temporarily house residents in Swiss Cottage was "nearing capacity" and that a second centre was being set up at the Camden Centre in Kings Cross.

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Camden Council initially said some 161 households in the Taplow building on the estate were being "temporarily decanted", but that figure was later revised to include the other blocks.

Camden Council leader Georgia Gould said: "I've made the really, really difficult decision to move the people living [in those blocks] into temporary accommodation while we do the urgent works to guarantee safety.

"I know it's difficult, but Grenfell changes everything, and I just don't believe we can take any risks with our residents' safety."

The council later confirmed on Twitter that the decision to "decant" residents came as a result of "a combination of cladding issues and other fire safety concerns that have emerged today including gas pipe insulation."

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Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted that her thoughts were with residents and said she had asked to be regularly updated on developments.

Some 800 households are to be rehoused in temporary accommodation Credit: ITV News

Residents are being encouraged to stay with family or friends, or to go to a centre set up at Swiss Cottage Library where council staff will advise them on temporary accommodation.

"We will make sure that everyone on those blocks has somewhere to stay," Ms Gould said.

Camden Council said the blocks were being door-knocked one at a time for safety reasons, starting at Taplow then working through Burnham, Bray, and Dorney.

Residents in the estate's fifth tower Blashford have been told that "they do not need to leave their flats" as it is "safe for residents" due to it having "several design elements that differ from the other four tower blocks".

A Council spokesman said that evacuated residents would be allowed in at the weekend to collect more possessions "under escort from the London Fire Brigade", but recommended people pack enough belongings for a two-to-four-week stay.

Ms Gould praised the work of council staff, volunteers and the fire service who had been working "all night" to help residents.

She continued that Blashford tower block had been declared "safe", while four others remained "unsafe".

Fire crews were on hand help residents, but many of those being moved expressed frustration with the situation.

Alice Clochet, who lives on the sixth floor of the Taplow block, told ITV News she was "outraged" after returning home to be informed of the mass evacuation.

Ms Clochet said she felt most for young families, asking: "Where are they going to go?"

Fellow resident Mohammed Sharif, who has lived on the Chalcots estate since 2009, said: "It's going to be a nightmare to leave."

Mr Sharif said he wanted to stay "another night or two" so his young family could move out in an "organised way", adding: "I don't want to go too far as my kids go to school here."

An American resident who teaches at a local school said she felt for those most in need of care amid the mass disruption.

"There's elderly people in my block in wheelchairs. They have carers - they don't live with them ... they come in during the day," she said. "How are they supposed to be accommodated for?"

Camden Council's decision comes as a vast operation is under way across the UK to identify buildings with similar cladding like to that used on the Grenfell Tower.

The Council earlier identified a number of blocks that used similar cladding and it emerged in recent days that the work was carried out by the same group of companies contracted at Grenfell Tower.

The work was overseen by Rydon, the company involved in the refit of Grenfell Tower, according to the Rydon website.

The Chalcots estate in Camden, London Credit: PA

Camden Council's Ms Gould said that while the insulation was safe, the external cladding was not up to the expected standard and the work would last several weeks.

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: "The specific type of Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) panels were identified as being used as cladding at the Chalcots Estate.

"Since receiving confirmation of this, London Fire Brigade have been working at the estate with Camden Council and following extensive joint visits and inspections, the Brigade advised that a number of fire safety issues in the buildings need remedying."

Work has begun work to remove the panels.

The evacuation comes as four more victims of Grenfell Tower were formally identified, taking the known victims of the fire to nine.

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