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Terror at tower block blaze

PUBLISHED: 20:35 18 June 2002 | UPDATED: 12:07 03 March 2010

RESIDENTS today told of their terror as windows exploded around them and people cried for help after fire broke out on the 10th floor of an Ipswich tower block.

RESIDENTS today told of their terror as windows exploded around them and people cried for help after fire broke out on the 10th floor of an Ipswich tower block.

More than 50 firefighters tackled a blaze at St Francis Tower in Franciscan Way.

Seventeen people had to be led to safety by fire crews and around 60 people were evacuated shortly after the blaze started at 6.05am.

It was the seventh fire in three years in the building.

Simon Black, 34, who was staying at his girlfriend's flat, said: "I heard a windows explode and people were shouting and screaming.

"The fire alarms had not been activated so I started knocking on everyone's door to wake them up.

"We were on the 11th floor and the whole floor was completely engulfed with smoke. Some people were trapped in their flats and couldn't get out because of the thick smoke and panic was definitely setting in.

"If the fire had been worse we all would have cooked in there."

Another resident Martin Westfall, 19, said: "I tried to leave the building but the smoke and heat was too great. I couldn't see anything and the electric was down.

"I opened my windows and spoke to the fireman who were up in their ladder and they told us to stay where we were.

"I don't like the idea of this place going up in flames as I can't imagine anything being able to stop it.

Stewart Tall, 38, who also lives in the tower block, said: "I am on sleeping tablets and am lucky that I was woken at all.

"I live on the 7th floor and I heard a big bang. It was very scary and people were shouting.

"I just stayed in my room until I was told to leave."

Eva Trecapelli, 25, who has lived at the tower block for eight months, said: "People knock on your door at all hours of the day and night and when it happened this morning I just ignored it.

"There are some strange people who live here and I don't like opening my door.

"The fire alarm goes off here three or four times a week so people tend to ignore them."

An investigation is under way to establish the cause of the blaze. However at this stage it is not thought to be suspicious.

Crews from Ipswich, Woodbridge, Holbrook and Felixstowe tackled the blaze.

It took firefighters approximately an hour to bring the fire under control.

Divisional Officer Phil Embury said: "On arrival crews were confronted with a fire on the 10th floor in what was believed to have started in an electrical intake unit although we haven't ruled anything out.

"There was a lot of smoke above the floor where the fire started and we had reports of persons trapped in the flats above.

"Because of the height of the building it made the operation difficult.

"We carried out a thorough search of the building and lead 17 people to safety."

Police and ambulance crews were also sent to the scene to help divert traffic and tend to the injured.

Although nobody was seriously hurt in the incident, some people were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and cuts.

Police blocked off Greyfriars Road for a short period while emergency services worked at the scene.

In a separate incident firefighters battled a blaze in a 50-tonne stack of straw at a Suffolk farm last night.

Crews from Stowmarket and Elmswell attended the scene in a field near two cottages on Plashwood Road, Haughley at just after 6.50pm.

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