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London tower blocks evacuated as 34 buildings fail fire tests


Early Saturday morning, residents of 5 London council flats in Chalcots Estate were asked to evacuate their homes due to fire safety concerns.

But 200 Chalcots Estate tenants who refused to go were "delaying work to make the homes safe", according to Camden council leader Georgia Gould.

Camden Council workers talk to residents outside Dorney block, part of the Chalcots Estate in the borough of Camden, north London, Saturday June 24, 2017, after the local council evacuated some 650 homes overnight. Not only were they clad with the same flammable material as Grenfell Tower, there were also concerns over gas pipes, insulation and fire doors.

Grenfell Tower: At least 79 people died in blaze.

Two days later families are still sleeping in a local leisure centre while they wait to be given temporary accommodation in local hotels and other council properties.

All "complete bodies" have been removed from the wreckage but there remains "a bad reality that we may not find or identify everyone who died due to the intense heat", she said.

"We are looking at every criminal offence from manslaughter onwards", Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack told reporters.

"We have been assured that tests on cladding samples are being processed so results should be back quickly".

PA Wire  PA Images
Potentially dangerous cladding is removed from an estate in Manchester
PA Wire PA Images Potentially dangerous cladding is removed from an estate in Manchester

The government has ordered an immediate examination of the refrigerator model that started the blaze, the Hotpoint model FF175BP refrigerator-freezer. So far, some 60 blocks have failed safety tests, while there are another 540 to be assessed.

Ms Gould said that the council was left with no choice after the London Fire brigade declared the blocks unsafe.

Tower blocks housing thousands of people across England are being urgently tested to check if their outer coverings pose a serious fire risk following the Grenfell Tower disaster, with almost a dozen already testing positive for combustible material.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who was forced to apologise for the government's initial slow response to the tragedy, said the authorities were now racing to establish what needed to be done.

Ministers are reportedly "dropping" plans to ease fire safety standards in new schools following a policy u-turn in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The political fallout has been vast, with criticisms levelled at everyone from the company that manufactured the cladding used, to the council that managed the tower block, right up to the country's prime minister.

After evacuating all five blocks, the council announced that one of the five - a smaller tower called Blashord - didn't need to be evacuated, and told residents they could return.

As tests continue to avoid a repeat of the horror which broke out at the Grenfell Tower on June 14, the Association of British Insurers said it had warned of the risks posed by cladding in feedback to a government policy document. One tribute, from a firefighter in the Kensington and Chelsea borough read: "20th floor, we tried. we're sorry".

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