Speaking at the scene with bandaged bare-feet, one man has described his miracle escape from the blaze in Reading as he and others jumped from the burning building
Image: Berkshire Live / Darren Pepe)
Witnesses to a suspected fatal arson attack have described the moment they watched people throwing themselves from the burning building in a bid to escape the flames.
One man described his “miracle” escape jumping from the third floor of the building in Reading, Berkshire, while other witnesses described a woman falling or jumping from the building.
Thames Valley Police have said that one person died in the blaze while a number of others remain unaccounted for and no more survivors are likely to be found.
They have set up a dedicated number for families with missing loves ones.
A 31-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of arson and murder.
Thames Valley Police Superintendent Steve Raffield said it was “highly unlikely we will find any further survivors” following a fire in Reading that killed one person and left a number of others unaccounted for.
The force also pledged that officers will “exhaust all our efforts to find signs of life” as they stage a search-and-rescue operation with emergency services colleagues.
Were you caught up in the fire? Email [email protected]
Berkshire Live / Darren Pepe)
The blaze erupted just before 3am on Wednesday, with neighbours hearing an explosion before flames broke out.
Tom Price, 40, who lives in a nearby building, said: “All I heard was a massive explosion and saw smoke billowing from the flats.
“People were leaping from their windows – I know one lady jumped from a high floor.
“There were screams and shouts and glass was being smashed.
“The flames went on for hours but the police and fire engines were here so quick.”
Three people have been taken to hospital so far, while another eight were treated by ambulance crews at the scene, according to police.
One resident who lives in the building told reporters at the scene that he and a firefighter made a desperate leap from his third-floor flat after becoming trapped.
Walking barefoot with a bandage on one of his feet, he said: “I was involved in the incident – I live in the flat on the third floor of the building.
“I was woken up by an alarm and heard a loud explosion. I heard the people inside screaming and shouting – I think they were my neighbours.
“I opened the door of my flat and saw a big cloud of smoke – and saw that the exit was trapped.
“A firefighter then came in and told me the building was on fire and to leave it now, so I jumped out of the window and so did he – it’s about 12ft.
“I landed OK but hurt my leg. I think the firefighter is in hospital, but I thought it was better to break my leg than die. I think it’s a miracle how it all happened.”
Michael, 50, who lives opposite the building and did not wish to give his full name, told the PA news agency that the fire broke out in the side of the building.
“I have a great view of the building and was woken at around 3am to all the commotion,” he said.
“I saw it pretty early on, the flames were coming from the side of the building and engulfed all the other flats and the roof.
“People were shouting and screaming – it was chaotic.”
Emergency services remained at the scene into Wednesday, with police, ambulance crews and firefighters working at the badly damaged building.
Police said the incident is not being treated as terror-related and urged people to avoid the area, where road closures are in place.
Another man who lives near the scene, who did not want to be named, told the PA news agency: “I’ve never seen so many police and fire engines in my life.
“The building has been really badly damaged, parts of the roof have been torn off, windows are smashed and smoke has been coming out of it for hours.”
In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Thames Valley Police said: “Police, fire and ambulance services remain at the scene of a large fire in Reading.
“Officers were called at 2.56am today following a number of reports about the incident at a property in Rowe Court off Grovelands Road.
“Sadly, one person has died as a result of this incident. A number of other people remain unaccounted for. A 31-year-old man from Reading has been arrested on suspicion of arson and murder, and is in custody.
“We are working with our colleagues on a search and rescue operation and will exhaust all our efforts to find signs of life. We expect this phase of the operation to continue today and into the evening and perhaps beyond.
“Three people have been taken to hospital so far, and these all have non-life-threatening injuries. An additional eight people were treated by the ambulance service at the scene.
“A number of other people have been evacuated from the scene and are being cared for by the local authority and partners.
“If you have any concerns about loved ones, you can report them here: Public Portal or by calling 0800 051 6079 or 020 7126 7641 from outside the UK.”