Four in lucky escape as arsonists strike again on Newcastle estate
Four people are lucky to be alive after a fire yesterday at a block of Housing Executive flats.
It's understood the blaze on Newcastle's Burrendale Park Road ignited oil tanks close to the block, and then spread to the homes.
Sinn Fein councillor Willie Clarke, who lives close to the scene of the blaze, told the Belfast Telegraph the people living in the flats were "lucky to escape with their lives".
"It's only by the grace of God that we are not looking at fatalities," Mr Clarke said.
"If the rescue services had arrived just a few moments later there would have been people dead.
"As it was, it was a scene of carnage - people were distraught. A very disturbing scene.
"These four people had no house insurance.
"They have lost all their belongings in the mouth of Christmas."
Mr Clarke said that there had been at least six arson attacks locally before yesterday's incident, which bore all the hallmarks of the earlier ones. He added that he had been calling on the PSNI to put more resources into policing anti-social behaviour in the area.
"This is a horrendous situation," he said.
"There are serious arsonists at work here. People are angry."
The fire was reported to police at around 3.40am.
Substantial damage was caused to the flats and enquiries are under way to establish the cause of the blaze, which was extinguished by firefighters.
There were no reports of any injuries, though it's believed one man received first aid at the scene.
A spokesman for the Housing Executive said: "The site has been secured and our maintenance team will be cleaning the area.
"The full extent of the damage will then be assessed.
"Locally based staff have been in contact with the residents of the flats affected by this incident to discuss their housing and welfare requirements."
The PSNI's Inspector Gary Moore appealed for anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the Burrendale Park Road area, or who had any information that may be of assistance to police, to contact officers in Downpatrick on the 101 number.
Information can also be given anonymously through the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.