Belfast Telegraph

Belfast family flee lightning strike hotel inferno in Florida

By Sara Neill

Tourists from Belfast have told of their horror after a fire destroyed part of the hotel where they were staying during a family holiday to Florida.

A lightning strike sparked the blaze at the Avanti International Resort in Orlando during a heavy thunderstorm on Sunday.

Carla Black and her family were evacuated along with around 500 others when the fire broke out on the fourth floor of one block.

A video taken by the Belfast woman shows the extent of the blaze as it took hold on the roof of the hotel at dinnertime.

Carla posted on Facebook: "We are now evacuated with not a shoe on our feet. We have just grabbed everything we could because we think it's going to come over to our building."

The flames could be heard licking at the tiles on the roof of the Avanti, but the sound was drowned out by the wail of sirens and honking of horns from emergency service vehicles. Ms Black also told the BBC: "The lightning was mental, we could hear that it was right above our heads, and then we could smell burning.

"It was a small fire at first but I've never seen anything spread so quickly.

"We were moved out at first because of the smoke, but then the fire was looking like it might even spread to our block."

Another holidaymaker said she saw the lightning strike from Sea World, the theme park further down International Drive.

No one was injured in the fire, but it is believed one couple lost all of their belongings.

The hotel confirmed the building was secured and the fire put out around two hours later, when staff posted: "The cause of the fire is reported to be lightning.

"Thank you to the Police Department and especially the Fire Department for their quick response and their ability to contain the fire to one building.

"The hotel's amenities, public facilities, and three out of the four buildings are operational. All guests have been assisted however, this will be an ongoing process for today."

The hotel is popular with holidaymakers due to its location on Orlando's busy International Drive. It opened in February 2013.

The fire followed a thunderstorm that delayed fireworks at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom Park on Friday night.

But when lightning struck Cinderella's Castle it caused an online sensation, with fans claiming it looked as if baddie Maleficient had finally managed to get her claws into the castle.

Thunder and lightning are not unusual in Florida. Tourist advice urges travellers to pack a mac or pick up a poncho, and plan their outings around the forecast.

Belfast Telegraph


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