Building to be demolished after Southsea fire drama

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A LANDMARK building is due to be demolished today after it was destroyed by a huge blaze.

Smoke could be seen billowing out above Southsea as the former Joanna’s nightclub, in South Parade, was engulfed by flames.

112835-1163 FIRE SOUTHSEA (NEWS) MRW 10/8/2011''Firefighters still at the scene of a fire opposite South Parade Pier in Southsea - the ex-Joanna's nightclub venue '''Picture: Malcolm Wells (112835-1163)

112835-1163 FIRE SOUTHSEA (NEWS) MRW 10/8/2011''Firefighters still at the scene of a fire opposite South Parade Pier in Southsea - the ex-Joanna's nightclub venue '''Picture: Malcolm Wells (112835-1163)

The building is owned by former Pompey manager Harry Redknapp, who plans to redevelop the site by building luxury homes there.

It took more than 80 firefighters – some from afar as Basingstoke, Hamble and Eastleigh – to tackle the fire, which was reported at 5.35pm yesterday.

And about 500 homes were without electricity as part of the burning building collapsed onto a power sub-station.

Most homes were connected again by the morning, but around 20 homes will have to wait until midday today.

9/8/2011 PM''Firefighters battle the fire at the former Joanna's nightclub on South Parade, Southsea, opposite South Parade Pier.''Picture: Paul Jacobs (112833-9)

9/8/2011 PM''Firefighters battle the fire at the former Joanna's nightclub on South Parade, Southsea, opposite South Parade Pier.''Picture: Paul Jacobs (112833-9)

Justyn Smith, spokesman for Southern Electric, said: ‘The issue we have got is our sub-station is in the exclusion zone that has been put up by the fire brigade.

‘The sub-station is where engineers would repair or re-route connections.

‘We anticipate this will be up until midday Wednesday, and until then some homes will be without power.

‘We apologise to customers, but hopefully they understand about the fire, and that we are working as quickly as possible to restore power.’

Hampshire Constabulary closed South Parade from the junctions of Clarendon Road and Granada Road.

The police force says the fire is not linked to riots in other parts of the country, and an investigation is ongoing to determine the cause of the blaze.

Chief Inspector Ali Heydari, district commander for Portsmouth South, said: ‘There has been no information or intelligence that suggests the fire is related to any riot activity.

‘We were here to support Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and work with them.

‘We do not know the cause of the fire and there is no evidence of criminal activity, we are not treating it as a criminal matter at the moment. It’s important that we clarify that while the cause of the fire is being investigated, initial inquiries do not point to arson.

‘There is absolutely nothing to suggest this is linked to threats of disorder in Portsmouth.’

Emergency crews worked throughout the night to ensure the fire – opposite South Parade Pier – was extinguished.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service group manager Dave Norgate said: ‘We had about 18 different fire appliances out last night.

‘The first crew to arrive was Southsea who saw the second, third and fourth floors of the building alight.

‘This then spread above and below. We managed to stop the fire from spreading to nearby properties as we tackled the fire from all sides.

‘The building itself has become unstable and we do expect a partial collapse.

‘Because of that we talked to the local authority to carry out a controlled demolition as soon as possible.’

At one point firefighters turned their attention to the top of South Parade Pier and doused the roof with water to ensure the flames did not spread.

‘We were fearful flying embers would spread across,’ added Mr Norgate.

Portsmouth City Council set up an emergency rest centre in Southsea.

Hundreds of people gathered to watch fire crews tackle the blaze.

Among them was Councillor David Fuller, who sits on the fire service authority board.

The Liberal Democrat councillor said: ‘It looked like a scene from the Blitz.’

Spectator Trevor Lewis-Hall, 42, of Campbell Road, said: ‘I heard a lot of sirens and then saw a huge smoke cloud – it was really dense so came to have a look.

‘When I saw the building I realised it was very serious.’

Witnesses should call Hampshire Constabulary on 101.