Hundreds of residents of a London housing estate have found their lives thrown into chaos after their tower blocks were evacuated amid safety fears linked to the Grenfell disaster.
From families with newborn babies to a Second World War veteran, residents of the Chalcots estate in Camden were ordered out of their homes after fire officers said they could not guarantee the safety of the buildings. Four high rises on the estate are thought to be covered with a similar type of cladding as that used at Grenfell Tower, five miles to the south west, where at least 79 people died in the June 14 tragedy.
A nationwide safety operation was launched after the disaster amid fears dozens of residential tower blocks could be swathed in the same material. 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”.
In the early hours of Saturday morning many residents were either staying at two relief centres in the borough, or were being dispatched to accommodation across the capital by the council. Waiting for a minibus to take her family to a hotel six miles away, Zega Ghebre, 42, said the situation was “unbelievable”.
“I’ve got three children, an 11-year-old, a nine-year-old boy and a one-and-a-half year-old girl, she’s a baby. “We couldn’t pack anything because we didn’t know where we are going, but hopefully we will get back,” she said as she stood outside Swiss Cottage Library, one of the emergency shelters in the shadow of the blocks. She added: “We have been offered a hotel in Wembley now. Hopefully it won’t be long. If I’m there for weeks I don’t know how I’m going to deal with it.”
Earlier 94-year-old Peter Bertram, a former RAF aircraft hand and a resident of the estate for 46 years, said he was “shocked” by the ordeal. He said: “It was a rush, I didn’t know anything. My neighbour told me ‘get this and that’. It happened so quick, I don’t have the energy for that now. It’s an experience, but it’s getting settled in again though.”