PICTURES: Families speak out as photos reveal ‘arson’ damage at Portsmouth tower block

Smoke damage at Handsworth House
Smoke damage at Handsworth House
Benjamin Peace

Arsonist who set fire to Havant house to block victims’ escape is jailed

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FAMILIES in a high-rise block targeted in a suspected arson have demanded CCTV should be installed.

Firefighters tackled a 16th-floor fire at Handsworth House, in Quinton Close, Somers Town, yesterday.

A pile of clothes are thought to have been set alight in the corridor, sending smoke through the bin chute and damaging the corridors.

No-one was injured or evacuated but now residents have been left feeling unsafe.

Jala Uddin, 37, lives on the 13th floor with his three children aged three to six.

He said: ‘They need some security in this place, so they can see what’s happening.

‘There should be CCTV so people can see.’

Taxi driver Peshwar Mohamed, 33, was out working when the blaze struck.

He immediately contacted his wife on the 10th floor of the building to check if she was safe with their twins.

‘It was worrying, I phoned my wife straight away,’ he said.

An arson investigation is under way after firefighters from eight crews and an aerial ladder platform attended the blaze at 12.20am yesterday.

Crew manager Simon Lovelock said: ‘The crew that went in were faced with the 16th floor completely smoke logged.

‘You could see the smoke from outside coming outside the bin chute area.

‘The fire itself was on the floor on the 16th floor lobby area.

‘Some items were left in that area and set fire to, which caused extensive damage to the 16th floor lobby area.’

He said the building’s fire doors and smoke strip seals kept the smoke within the lobby area.

Mr Lovelock added: ‘It’s dangerous to start fires deliberately.’

Firefighters were yesterday at the block working with residents to reassure them.

It comes just a few months after former resident Peter Arrandale, 60, was jailed for six years at Portsmouth Crown Court after admitting setting a blaze at the block in September 2016.

Resident Roger Greenaway, 32, last night said he feared it would take a disaster akin to that of the Grenfell Tower tragedy to make people in the city see the risks.

He said: ‘It’s disgusting (to set fires).

‘The risk is it’s going to take a catastrophe like Grenfell to sort things out.’

There are security officers at the Portsmouth City Council-owned block but residents want more to be done.