Residents homeless after blaze at flats

Residents of a block of council flats in Norwich could be in temporary accommodation for up to three months after a fire on Wednesday night. No one was hurt in the blaze in the top-floor flat at Bargate Court on Barrack Street, but structural damage to the building has meant all six flats have had to be evacuated.

Residents of a block of council flats in Norwich could be in temporary accommodation for up to three months after a fire on Wednesday night.

No one was hurt in the blaze in the top-floor flat at Bargate Court on Barrack Street, but structural damage to the building has meant all six flats have had to be evacuated. There is also severe water and smoke damage to neighbouring flats.

Structural engineers and scaffolders are already making the flats safe, but they have warned that homes may not be habitable for at least a fortnight, with the worst affected likely to stand empty for up to three months.

The seven affected residents have been offered alternative accommodation over the Easter period by the city council, but many have sought refuge with friends and family.

Lucy Sandell, 23, is pregnant and lives in a first-floor flat with her one-year-old daughter. She was at work when the alarm was raised.

She said: "I'm just very grateful that there's been no real damage to the flat or anyone. The flat directly underneath has lots of water damage and they've just spent £2,000 doing it up. Luckily my boyfriend was able to get the dog out.

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"Obviously it's a real nuisance not being able to get in and get anything for the little one. I've no clean clothes, underwear, nothing.

"The council have been very helpful. They said they would put us up in a B&B but we're going to stay with my family."

Tim Walsh, 48, lives opposite the flat where the fire started.

He said: "I'm angry, I've been crying. They say I've lost 50pc of the flat. I don't know when I'll be able to come home.

"I'm glad my daughter wasn't at home because she might not have got out of that back bedroom. She might not have woken up.

"The firemen have been brilliant and the council have been throwing money at us."

Though a woman was in the flat in question at the time, the fire was reported to the emergency services by a passing taxi driver at 8.20pm. Fire crews came from Norwich, Earlham, Wroxham, Diss and Hethersett to fight the fire, which is believed to have started just after 8pm.

They fought the flames for almost an hour, but the blaze spread to the roof before they were able to bring it under control. Initially they suspected that someone was trapped in the burning building, but everyone was accounted for by 9.15pm.

A city council spokesman said: "Obviously we sympathise with the residents and will do everything within our power to get the victims of the fire back home as quickly as possible."