UPDATE: Residents speak of dramatic fire rescue at Portsmouth flats

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RESIDENTS have spoken of how they were evacuated in the middle of the night as emergency services tackled a severe fire in Portsmouth this morning.

Firefighters, police officers and ambulance services were called to a blaze on the 13th floor of Handsworth House, in Somerstown, at around 4am.

Sixty firefighters from Southsea, Cosham, Fareham and Havant fire stations were all sent to the scene to help put out the fire.

Portsmouth City Council also set up a respite area in Somerstown Central community centre for anyone who wished to move out of their home. Sixteen residents in nearby flats were temporarily evacuated.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said: ‘We were woken up by someone who knocked on our door at about 4.30am and we decided to move out of our flat and come to the community centre.’

An elderly lady, who lives on the 14th floor, said: ‘The fire had been going on all night.

Three firefighters are being treated for injuries after being overcome by heat.

Steve Ash

‘I wasn’t in bed, I was already up. I was ordered to get out and that the fire was on the 13th floor.

‘We’ve had to wait here until it is clear.’

Three firefighters suffered injuries while tackling the fire due to the heat, although they are not meant to be serious.

A spokesperson for Hampshire Fire and Rescue said: ‘We were involved in a multi-agency response to a severe fire in a flat on the 13th floor of the tower block.

‘Firefighters have fought hard to fight the fire through punishing conditions save lives and the property.

‘We are working with Portsmouth City Council emergency planning team and our investigation officers are now investigating the cause of the fire.’

Steve Ash, group manager for Hampshire Fire and Rescue, said: ‘Three firefighters are being treated for injuries after being overcome by heat. ‘There injuries are not serious or life threatening,’

Meredydd Hughes, assistant director of property and housing services at Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘Our housing officers were on the scene very quickly, and set up accommodation in Somerstown Central community centre for about 16 residents in nearby flats who had been evacuated. They knocked on doors to make sure other residents were OK.

‘We’ll be cleaning up smoke and water damage in communal areas and will start work on repairing the fire-damaged flat when we are able to get access. The lifts were put out of action by water damage but we are getting them fixed as soon as possible. We’ll assess any damage to other flats.

‘Early this morning six residents were still in Somerstown Central, mainly older people who need the lifts to reach their homes. They’re being provided with free food and refreshments.

‘The block is open and residents can come and go.’