Five terraced houses in Harwich destroyed in fire

Five terraced homes have been destroyed after a roof blaze spread through the properties.

About 40 firefighters, some wearing breathing apparatus, tackled the flames in the houses in Harwich, Essex.

No casualties were reported and the cause of the fire in West Street, reported at 11:20 GMT, is being investigated.

Crews are expected to remain at the scene until Friday morning to deal with "hotspots and small pockets of fire".

Assistant Divisional Officer Chris Noakes, of Essex fire and rescue service, said crews had been hindered by strong winds.

He said: "Firefighting operations are continuing.

"The five properties have suffered extensive damage and there is no way that the people living there will be able to return to their homes, upsetting at any time of the year but particularly devastating just before Christmas."

Around 24 people asked to leave their homes and were taken to local authority rest centres, he added.

Two snakes rescued from one of the houses were returned to their owner after being seen by a vet, a fire service spokesman said.

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