An east London NHS worker says he only found out his tower block was being evacuated after a colleague from work asked him why he was “so calm”.
St Bart’s hospital manager, Jason Morley-Smith, 49, wept as he described the horrendous way he was informed about the evacuation of Clare House in Bow, east London today – he has lived on the 15th floor for eight years.
The NHS manager was sixteen hours into his shift when he realised fellow Clare House resident and NHS team leader Fernella Andrews, 54, was too distressed to provide care, so he decided to send her home.
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She said to him “you’re rather calm” then told him about a letter she had seen telling residents they had until Monday to move out of the building due to fire safety risks.
Immediately he had to find someone to take over the heart attack ward and return home.
He said: “Not once have they ever said in the worst case scenario your building will be evacuated – where do you live if you have four days’ notice, I only found out a couple of hours ago?”
He said there had been no letters through his letter box telling him about the situation.
(Image: Callum Cuddeford)
Morley-Smith’s colleague, Fernella, described how her world “fell apart” after Clarion Housing Group failed to inform her properly about the decision – she also only found out through a neighbour.
She said: “I came home yesterday and saw there was a meeting, I walked straight to the notice board and saw nothing there.
“I was just about to get in the lift when a lady said to me: ‘Have you just come from work?’
“She said you better go in there because I have got to be out by Monday – my world fell apart.”
Visibly tired, she and other residents said they had to face a full day or work after a “sleepless night”.
She added: “If the building is not safe I understand that but there has got to be a better way.”
The “shock” news came after a year in which Clarion put in a “waking watch”, “alarms”, and “sprinkler systems” to mitigate against fire risks – however, a recent fire safety inspection ruled tenants “cannot be kept safe without major refurbishment or demolition”.
This had led to a “surprise” evacuation, leaving many residents angry and distressed as they are forced to take time off work and deal with fears about the quality of temporary accommodation.
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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.
She also called for “clear and considered” support for tenants and “a huge commitment” from Clarion.
So far the company has only promised to cover wages at their “discretion” and internet access within “reasonable costs”.
Families in temporary accommodation will receive an allowance of £30 per day per household and those in hotels will receive up to £15 per person if they have no kitchen.
(Image: Callum Cuddeford)
Clarion CEO Clare Miller said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but we will always prioritise our residents’ safety above all else.
“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.”
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