Shocked residents in East London tower block ordered to move out immediately as their homes such a fire risk

Distressed residents in an east London tower block have been given just over one weekend to leave their homes after the building was deemed a fire hazard.

Sleep deprived residents of Clare House, Bow said they were in “total shock” at the “surprise” news which for some only arrived by word of mouth from neighbours.

All 120 households in the complex are to be evacuated with “immediate effect” after the building was deemed a fire safety hazard.

The first five floors were evacuated immediately within the last 24 hours by Clarion Housing Group after a fire safety report said the block “cannot be kept safe without major refurbishment or demolition”.

Clarion has said “this is not a decision we have taken lightly, but we will always prioritise our residents’ safety”.

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Grant Cornwell, 59, booked an emergency flight back from Italy to help his 89 year-old mum Elizabeth, who has lived on the 24th floor for 25 years and has dementia.

He said the way Clarion has handled the situation is “absolutely disgraceful” and said they had not returned his calls.

Visibly distressed mum of two, Bilkis Begum, 32, who has lived on the 18th floor for two years described getting a knock on the door to find out she had five days to leave.

Since then she has been offered temporary accommodation, only to be told the accommodation was unavailable hours later and another placement would need to be found.

She said: “I can’t sleep, it’s just stress and sometimes I have panic attacks, my hands are shaking and I don’t know what I am doing.

“The kids said mummy where are we going, I have to go to school, I do not want to leave my friends, I do not want to go to a new school – I am just in shock.”

NHS worker Wendy Walker, 54 has lived in Clare House for over 12 years

Clinical site manager Wendy Walker, 54, had just returned from a night shift at St Bart’s Hospital and said the announcement was “totally out of the blue and without warning”.

She added: “Yesterday I did not get any sleep before work. Obviously it was quite distressing and unsettling to tell us we will be out by Tuesday.

“I do not think people would be so angry if they were open and transparent.”

Lynette Gray, 69, has lived on the seventh floor for over thirty years where she runs her business, she has cancer and cares for her husband with Multiple Sclerosis.

She said it was “outrageous” that she will continue to pay rent for property she cannot live in, adding she was already struggling on her pension and the effects of the pandemic on her business.

Clarion confirmed to MyLondon that residents of the tower block will still be required to pay their rent while living elsewhere.

Lynette Gray, 69, has lived on the 7th floor for over thirty years

Lynette Gray, 69, has lived on the 7th floor for over thirty years

Taxi driver Mdjulkifal Begum, 37, and his wife Lalsuma Begum, 32, said they were concerned about the welfare of their children aged ten, eight, and four.

The couple said they told Clarion multiple times the housing was unsafe, and that it was “ridiculous” what had happened.

Mdjulkifal also complained they were “unable to sleep” because of the stress, while Lalsuma said she was unable to cook for her kids with all the emergency packing she was doing.

A letter sent to residents says where housing in an apartment is not possible they will be placed in a hotel, they will be given up to £15 a day per adult to cover food costs in rooms without cooking facilities.

Clarion have also offered £10 a week for laundry, and promised to cover “reasonable costs” for taxis taking kids to school as well as internet access.

Restaurant worker Ciara Quinn, 29, who lives on the 9th floor with her best friend and her grandma said she had been told to take “bare essentials”.

She said the announcement came as a surprise after a year in which Clarion spent thousands of pounds improving fire safety standards in the building, only then to decide at the last minute the building was uninhabitable.

She added the top five floors had been moved as a priority without any explanation for the urgency.

Ciara was also concerned about the time she would have to take off work to complete the move into temporary housing – Clarion have told residents they will cover lost wages at their “discretion”.

Bilkis Begum, 32, shook and held back tears as she spoke to MyLondon

Bilkis Begum, 32, shook and held back tears as she spoke to MyLondon

Tower Hamlets deputy mayor Rachael Blake said: “The residents are really shocked and concerned, just imagine someone knocked on their door and asked them to move.

“I cannot express strongly enough what a huge upheaval this is and it is happening at the moment of a severe housing crisis in London.

“There needs to be really clear and considered support for people about what there will be in terms of accommodation and there needs to be a huge commitment from Clarion.”

Clare House in Bow east London will be fully evacuated by Monday

Clare House in Bow east London will be fully evacuated by Monday

Clarion CEO Clare Miller said: “The focus right now is doing everything in our power to support Clare House residents as they move into temporary accommodation.

“We have a comprehensive package of support for residents and there will be a round the clock waking watch in the building, as we help people move out in an orderly fashion.

“While Clarion progressed its investigations at Clare House it put in place a waking watch, sprinklers and a new alarm system to mitigate against any increased risk a fire could create.

“However, our inspections and the latest report concluded that not every part of the building meets the latest required government standards for Large Panel System (LPS) buildings.

“The future of the building will be decided upon in due course.”

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