Pregnant woman tells of terror as she climbed through window to flee blaze
Residents caught up in an arson attack on a block of flats have told of their panic as they battled to escape the blaze.
Children and a heavily-pregnant woman were among those forced to flee when flammable liquid was poured over the front door of one of the flats.
The blaze broke out in a block in Rosewood Park in Castlereagh, east Belfast, around 12.40am on Saturday.
Firefighters rescued two women and two children, aged one and seven, who had taken refuge on a first-floor balcony. The pregnant woman was forced to climb through a narrow window to escape.
Emergency services arrived in minutes to find thick toxic smoke and fire engulfing the main entrance and stairwells trapping nine residents in their flats.
When the Belfast Telegraph visited yesterday, fumes, charred walls and smoke damage still blanketed the three floors of the block.
Julieann Grey (23), who is seven months' pregnant, raised the alarm after hearing a commotion only feet from where she was sleeping.
"I was in bed then I heard a smash and loud crackling noise," she said. "There was a fire at the door and smoke everywhere.
"It was such a panic, it was very scary. I have never been in a fire before.
"I had to climb through the window to get out.
"I was just thinking about my friend who lived upstairs with her child, I was thinking of them and shouting up to try and get people out."
The arsonists targeted a ground floor flat that is believed to be privately rented by an Eastern European man in his mid-20s. He was out at the time at the time of the attack.
Resident Julie Wilson (34) was returning from a night out when she saw the emergency services outside the neighbouring block.
She said: "I had been out for a meal and few drinks with my friend, and as my taxi pulled up I saw the blue lights of an ambulance and the fire brigade.
"I didn't know what had happened, then some people standing outside said there was a fire coming from the ground floor.
"My neighbour said a petrol bomb had been thrown at someone's front door.
"The emergency services were there for a couple of hours trying to sort it.
"You could smell the fumes, it was like petrol, the smell was terrible. Those people are lucky to escape with their lives.
"But I have to say that any-thing like this is unusual for around here.
"It's a nice quiet area and most people have lived here for years. Nothing like this ever happens."
East Belfast DUP MLA Robin Newton said: "In this incident we are fortunate that we are not dealing with a fatality or the fatalities of women and children."
Alliance councillor Michael Long said someone could have been killed.