Hundreds of people have been evacuated from five tower blocks in north London to allow for “urgent fire safety works”, because of safety concerns over cladding in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire.
The high-rise buildings on the Chalcots estate in Camden were being emptied after firefighters said they “could not guarantee our residents’ safety”, council leader Georgia Gould said.
Chalcots resident Shirley Philips told Sky News she was given no notice before being told she must leave her home.
She said: “I think it’s absolutely disgusting. We’ve had the fire brigade all day, Camden Council, police.
“I had a fire safety check done today. Why have they left it til half past eight on Friday night to start getting residents out? Where do they think we’re all going?”
Others said they found out about the evacuation when they were watching the news.
Ms Gould said a rest centre had been set up and residents were being found hotels and other accommodation while council staff were on site providing information and guidance to residents.
London mayor Sadiq Khan said he was in contact with the council, emergency services and the Government about the situation.
He said: “There is a particular set of circumstances on this estate that make this necessary, which has been identified following good work between Camden Council and the London Fire Brigade.
“Fire safety checks are ongoing at other estates across the UK.”
The council had already announced that it would immediately begin preparing to remove cladding from five towers on the estate discovered during checks following the fire in north Kensington, which killed at least 79 people.
It was then decided the buildings should be emptied.
Ms Gould said it was expected the work would take three or four weeks, adding: “We realise that this is hugely distressing for everyone affected and we will be doing all we can, alongside the London Fire Brigade and other authorities, to support our residents at this difficult time.
“The Grenfell fire changes everything – we need to do everything we can to keep residents safe.”
Muslim residents told the Independent they were informed of the evacuation just as they were about to break their fast on the penultimate day of Ramadan.
Reacting to the news of the evacuation on Twitter, Theresa May said the government will work with and support the emergency services and authorities to safeguard the public.
She added she had asked Secretary of State for Local Government Sajid Javid to keep her regularly updated “to ensure we are offering every support we can to residents and those working onsite”.
“My thoughts are with residents being evacuated in Camden while their homes are made safe tonight,” she said.
Fire safety expert Stephen MacKenzie told Sky News: “I think (the council has) done the sensible thing in this case.
“I’m at a loss as to why Theresa May has not convened Cobra over this to actually get emergency arrangements, led by central government, to support the local authorities and to give the residents the necessity reassurance and address this issue.”
He added a group of fire experts should be convened “urgently” over the weekend together with private and social housing to find solutions to the issue.
The evacuation came as four more victims of Grenfell Tower were formally identified, taking the known victims of the fire to nine.
Scotland Yard also revealed manslaughter charges are being considered by detectives investigating the blaze in the tower in west London, which had failed fire safety tests