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Block near Grenfell Tower evacuated after 'false alarm', leaving residents panicked and confused

Police told residents there had been 'miscommunication' as retail units employees were asked to leave building for fire exit checks 

Chloe Farand
Wednesday 05 July 2017 20:11 BST
The remains of Grenfell Tower
The remains of Grenfell Tower (PA)

Residents living in a block in the shadow of Grenfell Tower were left confused and angry after "miscommunication" led some of them to evacuate.

Retail units in a building by the tower were cleared because of safety concerns over their fire exists, police said. But about 50 residents who believed they also had to leave their homes gathered outside their blocks without understanding what was going on.

Some said they had been told by their neighbours to leave the buildings and a few were said to be "visibly upset".

But the Metropolitan Police said it was not aware of residents being asked to leave their homes and told residents it was a "false alarm" and that there had been "miscommunication". Officers then told residents they could go back into their homes.

A spokesman for North Kensington Law Centre, located in one of the blocks surrounding the burnt-out tower, said police told them they were being evacuated because of concerns over their fire exit, which backs onto the tower.

Several other commercial units and offices were also reported to have been evacuated.

But footage on social media shows frustrated residents waiting outside their homes, not understanding what was going on or if it was safe for them to go back in.

Lancaster West Residents Association said it was aware of an evacuation of "specific units" due to the fire brigade needing to check a fire escape and access.

It said a "panic" had been caused in part due to a fire alarm going off in one of the blocks. But this later turned out to have been a false alarm.

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: "A number of retail units which are very close to the Grenfell Tower cordon were evacuated today due to concerns about their fire exits being blocked because they back on to the investigation site.

"This was not because the tower was unstable, but it was to ensure that people could leave safely in the event of a fire.

"The brigade are on site to explore how to ensure the fire exits can be accessed in a way which would allow the retail units to go back into use."

A Met Police spokesman said: "As a result of the crime scene, which obviously spans a bit of an area, it was blocking the fire exit to a group of retail units so as a result, down to safety issues, retail units were evacuated."

The evacuation had nothing to do with "structural issues", he added.

Another Met spokesman said: "As a precaution, we temporarily stopped working inside Grenfell Tower whilst some additional tests were carried out.

"Officers only stopped people working inside the tower, and no one else was asked to leave their property because of this.

"Now those tests have been completed work has restarted inside Grenfell Tower."

Additional reporting by agencies.

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