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Family home devastated by lightning

PUBLISHED: 19:00 28 April 2004 | UPDATED: 04:49 02 March 2010

A FAMILY-of-five has been left homeless today after a lightning bolt blasted through their roof as they slept.

Pat and Bob Prior were woken to a deafening bang as the lightning punched a hole in their bedroom ceiling and shot fragments of brickwork over the road.

A FAMILY-of-five has been left homeless today after a lightning bolt blasted through their roof as they slept.

Pat and Bob Prior were woken to a deafening bang as the lightning punched a hole in their bedroom ceiling and shot fragments of brickwork over the road.

The ensuing flames destroyed all their possessions in the loft as they and the rest of the family bailed out into the street.

The whole top floor, which had been newly decorated, was also ruined.

Mrs Prior, of Whitton Church Lane, Ipswich, said: "We woke to an almighty big bang. It was one big crack.

"We thought some poor sods had been hit and it turned out to be us.

"My first reaction was to get out so we dived out quick.

"We heard a noise and ran downstairs and realised the electricity had been cut off.

Mrs Prior ran next door of the semi-detached house to alert her friend Sally Burnett and her two children, Cheryl, seven, and 13-year-old Terry.

Mrs Prior, who teaches Cheryl at Whitton primary school, was able to help them out of the house, while the full extend of the damage became apparent.

She said: "We have lost lots. All the children's toys with sentimental value are gone and we are homeless at the moment."

Her daughter Sam, 30, added: "I have had my Sindy dolls since I was four years old and I have lost the lot.

"It was like the heavens were going to cave in."

High flames and thick black smoke filled the sky as firefighters tackled the blaze for over an hour at 2.30 this morning amid the thunderstorm.

Sub officer Jon Southgate, the officer in charge at the scene, said: "Because of the lightning strike crews had to deal with the fire from the confines of the loft space.

"The storm went to the south-west of the town, so once it had passed we used the turntable ladder outside."

However Mr Southgate said the storm then swung back towards them.

"While the turntable was in operation there were some lightning flashes fairly close to us, so we had to withdraw the ladder.

"We used blocks with wooden conducting strips in them under the ladder, but if the operator in the cage had actually been touching the brickwork or any part of the house they would actually have been a conductor as well."

The firefighters dealt with the fire and the clear-up until 5.15am while a Red Cross victim support unit provided make-shift accommodation.

Sam Prior said: "We were lucky because when we called the fire alarm had gone off at Whitton sports centre so the fire brigade were right on our doorstep when we rang.

"The victim support unit was great."

At 8am they were still standing in the street waiting for the council to find emergency housing for the family of two men and three women.

The stench of smoke was pungent, water was dripping from gaping holes in the ceiling and the charred remains of their belongings littered the house.

Many tiles on the roof had been obliterated.

Thunderstorms wreaked havoc across Ipswich this morning, with five recorded false fire alarms being set off because of electrical faults due to the lightning.

They were at:

Whitton Sports centre, Whitton Church Lane, Ipswich, at 2.22am

Ipswich County Hotel, London Road, Copdock, at 4.35am

Emily Bray House, 300 Woodbridge Road, Ipswich, at 5.44am

Servite House, Trafalgar Close, Ipswich, at 5.46am

Wingate House, Bramford Road, Ipswich, at 5.54am

ADVICE FOR THUNDERSTORMS AND LIGHTNING STRIKES

n Get out of the house straight away and leave everything inside.

n Unplug electrical items such as TV, videos and even computers that may be permanently damaged because of a power surge

n Make sure you have smoke detectors fitted

n If you are outside when a storm begins, make your way as quickly as possible to a building.

n Do not use an umbrellas or shelter under trees

FAST FACTS - source: Ken Blowers

N During today's storm, 0.14inches of rain fell in just one hour.

N A lightning discharge has tremendous power - up to 50 million volts on some occasions.

N East Anglia has one of the highest frequencies of storms, with thunder heard on 23 days a year.

N There on average about 900 thunderstorms in Britain each year.

N Lightning actually goes from the land to sky - not from the clouds to the land.

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