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Camden flats: Confusion as evacuation begins

Family outside Taplow tower Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

As the sun set on Swiss Cottage, there was frustration among residents of the Chalcots estate.

With five tower blocks being evacuated, the streets were teeming with neighbours, children, and cameramen.

Camden Council employees wearing hi-viz vests stood outside the Taplow tower, speaking to residents.

Some of them only realised their homes were being evacuated after hearing news reports.

Emmanuel, 18, said they had "not been told anything".

"I'm angry to an extent that they didn't tell us sooner."

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Some residents complained about the lack of warning

During live broadcasts, one woman shouted angrily at a TV cameraman: "Can you tell me what's going on?"

There was a steady trickle of families walking out of Taplow with an array of suitcases, satchels and bags for life.

An elderly man called George, wearing a suit and carrying a small duffle bag, was trying to re-enter the complex.

His neighbour shouted: "They'll only kick you out again George. Your best bet is to go back to the leisure centre."

George - like many other residents - did not want to speak to the media.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Residents have been offered temporary accommodation by Camden Council

Many residents were sent to the Swiss Cottage leisure centre, to learn where their temporary accommodation would be.

Some people said that - despite the evacuation - they wanted to stay at home.

By 21:00 BST, council employees were going floor-by-floor to tell residents who did not know about the evacuation.

Brian, who lives on the fifth floor of Taplow tower, said: "It's a weird time to kick people out, especially as it's most children's bedtime."

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq said: "I realise it's disruptive to people's lives but constituents safety comes first.

"If it's not safe then people need to go."

The Labour MP said it was a "tough decision" for Camden Council to make, but added: "This building is not safe for our residents.

"Our council could not let residents stay overnight."

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The number of people evacuated from the five tower blocks could be in the thousands

Edward Strange was travelling to Salisbury with his family when news broke on the radio. They turned back immediately to find out what was going on.

He said that the evacuation was a "complete overreaction", adding that two previous fires in Taplow were "easily contained".

He intended to stay with friends for the first night, but said he could not impose his family on them for much longer.

Camden Council has said the works could take up to four weeks.

The number of residents being evacuated from the 800 homes is unknown, but it could be in the thousands.

Ms Siddiq said that the council had block-booked hotel rooms and were offering them to all residents.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Some people chose to stay the night with friends or relatives

Four miles from the Chalcots estate stands the charred remains of Grenfell Tower.

At least 79 people are feared dead after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building earlier this month.

Camden Council leader Georgia Gould said: "I know it's difficult, but Grenfell changes everything."

Louise Simons, who lives in nearby Primrose Hill, came to the tower blocks to offer any displaced residents a spare bed for the evening.

"We live locally and have been impacted by the events of Grenfell," she said. "Obviously we wanted to help."

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