RESIDENTS have spoken of their terror at being trapped in their homes when a fire took hold in a block of flats.
The blaze began in the stairwell of the first floor of Windsor House, Canal Walk, Landport, on Saturday night.
For many, the first they knew of it was when neighbours banged on their doors screaming at them to get out.
In total 16 people had to be rescued – including two from the roof of the seven-storey building. One person was treated for smoke inhalation.
All 39 flats were eventually evacuated to a nearby Salvation Army Centre where residents slept on makeshift beds.
No-one was allowed back in the privately-owned building last night and Portsmouth City Council had to find emergency accommodation for 18 people.
Micaela Beard, 21, was alone in her top-floor flat when her neighbour shouted at her to get out.
She said: ‘I tried to open the front door but black smoke poured in and I had to go back to my window.
‘My neighbour came to get me. He put his jacket over his face and I put mine over mine.
‘We put our hands out until we could find each other.
‘We couldn’t breathe. We couldn’t see a thing, the smoke was that thick, that black. We managed to crawl out of one of their big windows. That was the only flat that had a window we could escape from.’
Miss Beard made her way to the roof where she stayed for several hours until it was safe to come down.
She added: ‘I’ve never been in a situation like that before. We literally couldn’t breathe. I was so lucky that my neighbour was in.
‘Without them none of us would have escaped.’
Inspector Claire Taylor said the cause of the fire is being investigated but would not say if it is being treated as arson.
No-one has been arrested.
Firefighters from Cosham and Southsea rescued people from windows and the roof using the aerial ladder.
Station manager Steve Ash, the officer in charge, said: ‘Fortunately only one person needed hospital treatment, but without the swift action of the responding crews this number could have been a lot higher.’