Westcliff gas main fire: Man charged with arson

Socata House Image copyright Essex County Fire and Rescue
Image caption 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".

A 26-year-old man 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.

Image caption 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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