British gov't says 27 tower blocks fail fire safety checks

Residents are evacuated from the Taplow Tower residential block as a precautionary me following concerns over the type of cladding used on the outside of the building

Camden Council said it would remove external thermal cladding from five tower blocks on the Chalcots estate.

(Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP).

Four blocks of flats housing up to 4,000 people on the Chalcots Estate in Camden were evacuated on Friday night for fire safety work to be carried out.

Around 600 residential blocks are in the process of being checked for combustible materials.

Camden Council plans to remove external cladding on towers in Chalcots estate.

Britain's government now says cladding samples from 34 high-rise apartment towers across the country have failed fire safety tests.

Some refused to leave their high-rise apartments.

Camden Council leader Georgia Gould said it chose to evacuate four blocks in north London's Chalcots Estate late Friday after fire inspectors uncovered problems with "gas insulation and door stops", which, combined with the presence of flammable cladding encasing the buildings, meant residents had to leave immediately. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said further testing "is running around the clock".

In a letter, seen by Sky News, from Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council, survivors were asked to leave the hotel they were staying in by 4pm yesterday afternoon. It said about 650 apartments were evacuated.

Test results are being sent to local landlords and fire services, with councils to decide on what course of action is needed and to inform residents.

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"Whilst we are clear that our cladding design and insulation significantly differs to that at Grenfell Tower, the external cladding panels did not satisfy our independent laboratory testing or the high standards we set for contractors", Gould said in a statement Thursday, adding that the council had made a decision to "immediately begin preparing to remove these external cladding panels". "Grenfell changed everything, and when told our blocks were unsafe to remain in, we acted". Council workers guided dozens to a nearby gym, where they spent the night on inflatable mattresses.

Many residents complained about a lack of information and confusion.

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

The Chalcots estate was refurbished between 2006 and 2009 by Rydon, the same firm that oversaw work on Grenfell Tower in 2015 and 2016. "I just don't believe we can take any risk with our residents' safety, and I have to put them first".

"Whilst only a football match, we hope that in some small way through the Community Shield we can help", FA chairman Greg Clarke said on the organisation's website.

People were told to leave as darkness began to fall, with some taking belongings in suitcases and carrier bags, and some locals saying they only learned of the evacuation as they watched the news.

In its most detailed briefing on the criminal investigation, the Metropolitan Police on Friday confirmed residents' suspicions that the June 14 inferno at Grenfell Tower was touched off by a refrigerator fire. The cladding on the building has failed fire safety tests. "We are looking at all health and safety and fire safety offenses, and we are reviewing every company at the moment involved in the building and refurbishment of Grenfell Tower".

Meanwhile, the government ordered immediate checks on the Hotpoint FF175BP fridge freezer model blamed for the blaze.

Fears about cladding are not limited to apartment buildings. One hotel chain, Premier Inn, has calling in experts to check its buildings. Renovations are expected to take several weeks.

The fire has become a flashpoint for public anger at Prime Minister Theresa May's record in government and cuts to local authority budgets.

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