Leicester factory fire forces evacuation of hundreds of homes

The fire Image copyright Rohit Vadher
Image caption The blaze forced the evacuation of hundreds of terraced homes

A major fire which destroyed a former factory and the businesses inside forced the evacuation of more than 200 homes in Leicester.

The blaze in Melton Road started at about 07:15 BST and threatened to spread to a next door petrol station.

Firefighters battled all day to bring the flames at the four-storey building under control. They are expected to remain on scene overnight.

Nobody was reported injured, police said.

Image copyright Rohit Vadher
Image caption The factory was next to a BP filling station on Melton Road

Witnesses reported seeing smoke billowing from the windows of the former factory before flames leapt into the air and quickly engulfed the building.

Jaymini Makwana, who lives in the area, said: "I came out of the house and the building was on fire, the flames were going up in the air. Within about 10 or 15 minutes, one half of the building collapsed.

"The heat was mental. Within another 15 minutes, the other half of the building started collapsing. Everyone was in the street shocked and worried which way it was going to fall."

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Media captionWitnesses watched the burning building collapse

Mehds Thakor was on his way to work when he noticed the building was on fire.

"At first there was smoke coming out of the building's windows," he said. "Gradually it got thicker and thicker and then there were flames which shot right up into the air."

The fear that the flames could ignite a BP filling station next door prompted Leicestershire Police to evacuate hundreds of homes from four neighbouring roads.

Officers were seen running up and down the terraced streets banging on doors to wake residents and tell them to leave.

Image caption Witnesses reported watching the building come down shortly after the blaze took hold

The blaze caused the collapse of the building, devastating the business of the family which owned it.

There were also several firms which had space in the former factory, including a textiles company and a furniture shop.

Saif Choudhury, whose family owns the building, said he began to well up when he saw it had been destroyed.

Visibly distressed, he said: "It's like my heart's been taken out of my body, it's horrible. That business is finished. That's our livelihood."

Image caption Firefighters remained on the scene for all of Thursday and expect to stay until Friday

Other traders have been unable to open all day and one's sign melted in the ferocious heat, despite the fire service dousing it with water.

At its height, Leicestershire Fire Service had 10 engines at the scene and expect to remain there into Friday as they continue to put out the flames.

Investigators will try to establish a cause when it is safe to enter the site, police said.

Residents, some of whom were still in pyjamas, were gradually allowed to return home from about 15:00 BST.

Melton Road, a major route into Leicester, was closed all day and it is not known when it might reopen.

Image copyright Caroline Woolman
Image caption The smoke from the fire could be seen from across Leicester

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