‘I could see and smell smoke, I started crying’ – Tower block residents tell of their panic after fire

A computer-generated image showing potential plans for the new sea defences. Picture: Portsmouth City Council

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RESIDENTS were left panicking and crying after being told two fires had broken out in their Somers Town tower block in the early hours of this morning.    

More than 50 firefighters from across the area were called to the incident on Portsmouth’s Quinton Close, at 1.45am. The fire on the 16th floor started in a bin chute. 

Scene outside Handsworth House, Somers Town today, after the fire last night

Scene outside Handsworth House, Somers Town today, after the fire last night

The second fire is reported to have started on the 15th floor.

Two people were taken to hospital with smoke inhalation.

Natasha Eddy, 25, was left in tears after worrying about the safety of her young son.

She said: ‘I live on the 15th floor and the smoke was coming straight into my flat.

‘I woke up thinking my alarm clock on my phone was going off, but it was the fire alarms and smoke was coming straight underneath my front door.

‘I could see it, smell it, I started crying and rang my mum because I’ve got a three-year-old son with cerebral palsy and autism, it was awful.’

She continued: ‘I called 999 and asked what to do because the smoke was coming in, and they said to block up the doors and stay put.

‘If I opened the door I couldn’t see two foot in front of me.

‘Luckily my son slept through the whole thing but I blocked his bedroom door up and the front door, and used towels and anything I could find to just stop it coming in but it was coming through every single crack possible.

‘My mum ended up coming down, I kept saying to her on the phone before “what do I do mum? I don’t know what to do”.

‘It’s the third fire this year in the building and the fire service told me there were two last night, when they came round to tell us the building was now safe.

‘There was also one on the 16th floor - they’re always in the bin chutes. 

‘I don’t know if both of them were bin chute fires but I just want to get out of the building.

‘I can still smell the smoke now my flat stinks but the windows have been open all night and all morning.’

Eleanor Walton, 26, was woken up in her 14th-floor flat by a firefighter. She said she panicked and took her daughter into the kitchen, where she was told they would be most safe.

She added: ‘The firemen told me to stay in my flat because there was a fire on the 15th floor.

‘I didn’t hear anything before that but when I woke up I saw loads of fireman and policeman outside.

‘There wasn’t any smoke in my flat but I had my windows open and I could smell it.

‘I was really worried because I’ve got a five-year-old girl who was in my flat with me.

‘I was panicking thinking “oh my god”, getting my daughter up and into the kitchen, because they said that would be the safest place, and I shut all my doors.

‘Firemen told me there were two fires, one on the 16th floor as well.

‘I’m worried because this seems to be a regular occurrence and I want to be able to keep my child safe.

‘I have a neighbour on the 16th floor who was also worried so we were talking to each other making sure each other was okay.

‘It’s a bit weird that there were two fires.’

Southsea Fire station confirmed there were two separate incidents at the Portsmouth City Council-owned tower block.

Police and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service are working together to investigate the exact causes of the fires.

Stuart Valentino, 37, lives on the 11th floor and has done for six months. He was woken up by firefighters at about 3.30am – after the fire had been put out.

He said: ‘I woke up and saw fireman, police cars and firefighters sat on the pavement outside.

‘I didn’t hear any fire alarms going off, they didn’t go off on the 11th floor, I must have slept right through it.

‘This will be the third fire now in the block now I want to find out what happened and how exactly they started.’

Fire crews left the scene at 4.15am. The city council has been contacted about the safety of the bin chutes in the block.