Northern Ireland

Newtownabbey house fire victims 'have lost everything'

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Media captionNewtownabbey house fire victim says 'we've lost everything'

A woman whose family home was destroyed in a fire which swept through eight houses in Newtownabbey, County Antrim, has said they have "lost everything".

The blaze, which destroyed four homes and damaged four others at Ballyfore Road, started at an oil tank about 17:45 BST on Saturday.

About 50 firefighters were involved in a major operation to extinguish the fire and prevent the flames spreading.

Police are investigating and said it "may have been started deliberately".

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Image caption Police say the fire damaged six properties

One man was treated for smoke inhalation but did not require hospital treatment. No one else was injured.

'Devastated'

Detective Constable Chris Perks appealed for anyone who saw suspicious activity in the area to contact police.

Image caption No one was injured in the fire

A woman, who did not want to be identified, told the BBC her family was "completely devastated.

"It is the worst thing in the world watching your house burn," she said.

"It was so frightening hearing an oil tank explode. I'm just thankful it didn't happen in the middle of the night and glad nobody got hurt."

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Image caption The incident happened shortly before 18:00 BST on Saturday

DUP councillor Stephen Ross said the fire was either caused by "malice or pure stupidity on somebody's part".

He said he was meeting on Monday morning with the chief executive of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council to try and help affected residents.

"We'll be working with the Housing Executive, local housing associations and local landlords to see which properties are vacant in the Ballyduff area so these people can be homed quickly so that they have as little disruption to their lives as possible," he said.

'Intensity of heat'

The Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Paul Hamill, told the BBC the residents were "still quite in shock".

"At least four of the properties were severely damaged and a number of other properties and cars were also damaged by the sheer intensity of the heat," he said.

"The Valley leisure centre has opened for people to take some cover there and to get some help and respite.

"It's great to see the community come out and show their support at this time."

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