NEWS

Camden Evacuations Lead To Anger, Fear And Confusion As 4,000 Residents Evacuated

'I don't really see what all the fuss is about.'

24/06/2017 11:57

Chalcots Estate residents have spoken of their anger, fear and confusion over the evacuation of their homes, with some saying they only found out by watching television news.

As many prepared to spend the night in temporary accommodation on Friday, including a leisure centre and library complex in Swiss Cottage, they questioned the timing of the announcement.

Residents from the five blocks started filtering into the leisure centre around the corner from Taplow tower with belongings including heavily packed suitcases and pets after a decision was made at 6.30pm. 

The council said they evacuated around 4,000 residents from about 650 flats. Eight three residents were said to have refused to leave their homes

Camden Council officials were heard telling weary residents: “If you have somewhere else to stay you will be a lot more comfortable.

“All we can offer you here tonight is a mattress on the floor.”

Renee Williams, 90, who has lived in Taplow tower since 1968, told the Press Association: “No official came and told us what’s going on, I saw it on the TV so I packed an overnight bag.

“But now they’re telling us we’re going to be out of our homes for the next two to four weeks.

“It’s unbelievable. I understand that it’s for our safety but they can’t just ask us to evacuate with such short notice. There’s no organisation and it’s chaos.”

She added: “This is a nightmare, there was a fire in the block two years ago and it was contained, so I don’t really see what all the fuss is about.”

Ahmed Mohamed, 19, who lives in Taplow with his parents and two sisters, said they were alerted by a neighbour at around 8.15pm that they needed to leave.

He said: “Five of the blocks are evacuated, it was a mess, we only had five minutes to get our stuff.

“We had the meeting yesterday which I attended and they told us nothing about this. They said they’re going to make sure we’re safe, that’s all.

Hannah Mckay / Reuters
A resident is evacuated from the Burnham Tower residential block following concerns over the type of cladding used on the outside of the building on the Chalcots Estate in north London

“The officials have told us to go to the leisure centre where we might be rehoused or we might stay with friends and family.”

Hamza Usman, 21, who lives in Burnham tower, said: “I found out that we have to evacuate through BBC News.

“I called my mum and she said she had heard nothing either.”

Mother-of-three Adelina, who also lives in Burnham, said: “I heard it from the news. I am in shock and I don’t believe it.

“I think it’s the right thing to do if it’s health and safety. I’d rather be safe.”

Michelle Urquhart, who has been living in the estate’s Bray tower, told PA it was “frightening”.

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

“I’m so angry because we had the meeting with the council last night and they tried to reassure us.

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

Hannah Mckay / Reuters
Residents are seen leaving Taplow Tower on Friday night

Teacher Kim Price, who lives in Blashford tower with her 14-year-old son, said: “I really don’t know what to do, I’m so scared right now.

“The news has said ‘get out now’ but the authorities have said ‘stay put’.

“But why now? At 4pm today they said it would be okay and that all the checks were fine. And now, all of a sudden the news is saying we should get out.”

Hampstead and Kilburn Labour MP Tulip Siddiq backed the Labour council’s decision as “the right thing”.

She said: “If you think someone’s in danger, especially in light of Grenfell, you take the first decision even if it’s not ideal.”

On Friday evening, Matiyas Solomon, 40, was visiting the family of a Grenfell Tower victim, his sister’s friend, when he discovered his home was being evacuated at around 9pm.

After registering at the leisure centre with his niece and nephew, where residents were bedding down in close proximity with just an “air mattress, a pillow and blanket”, he decided to find accommodation elsewhere.

He said: “It’s very compact, there are old people, kids, they have food and water, no one is happy.

“It’s too late to tell these people, they should have had in the morning time to decide.

“They had about nine days, they know all what is happening. They should have decided early or in the morning.

“They had just come from school, we were out.

“There’s no one to contact us. Nothing. Tomorrow we can go back in and get some stuff, that’s it.”

His neice, 14, said: “We were at the Grenfell Tower to see a friend to meet people there. It was one of my mum’s close friends (who died). We came rushing home to get some stuff.”

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