Westcliff gas main fire: Man charged with arson

Socata House A car port at Socata House in London Road, Westcliff, was badly damaged by fire

A man has been charged after gas main supplying a Tesco store and a block of flats was set alight.

An area around London Road in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, was evacuated early on Monday by emergency services.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said the incident, and another fire in a block of flats a few hours before, "could have had deadly consequences".

Sam Brown, 26, of no fixed address, has been charged with arson with intent to endanger life.

He is due to appear before Southend Magistrates' Court later.

A block of 16 flats, Socata House, was evacuated on Sunday night, because of a fire in a car port underneath the building.

A 70-year-old man, who lives in one of the flats, was treated for shock.

Damage to car port A motorcycle and a car were badly damaged in Sunday night's blaze

Martyn Hodder from Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said: "The fire was being fuelled by escaping gas from the damaged supply pipes and threatened to spread to occupied flats above."

A few hours later, a second fire was set on a gas main in the stairwell of another block of flats, which also supplies a Tesco Express store.

Mr Hodder said the blaze "could have had deadly consequences" as the stairs were the only means of escape for the 15 flats.

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