Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight workshop fire: Homes evacuated and ferries stopped

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Media captionWitnesses told of hearing explosions when the fire broke out

A fire has broken out at a workshop on an industrial estate on the Isle of Wight.

Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue said more than 50 firefighters were tackling the blaze at Medina Village on Bridge Road in Cowes.

Fifty fibreglass boats are believed to be on the premises, as well as cars and acetylene cylinders.

Plumes of thick, black smoke are visible around the town.

Image caption Plumes of smoke have been billowing across the Solent

A 200m cordon has been put in place and the Cowes Chain Ferry has been suspended.

Residents in Thetis Road and the surrounding streets have been evacuated from their homes and witnesses have reported hearing explosions.

Affected people are being directed to the Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club in Birmingham Road, which has been set up by the Isle of Wight Council as a temporary place of shelter.

Police said smoke was moving from West Cowes towards East Cowes across the river and have advised residents in East Cowes to keep their windows closed as a precaution.

Image copyright Joshua Aitken-Dunkeld
Image caption The Cowes Chain Ferry has been suspended
Image copyright Robert Kitney
Image caption Witnesses described the surrounding area filling with smoke

South Central Ambulance said it had sent its Hazard Area Response Team to deal with suspected hazardous materials at the site.

Two people referred themselves to St Mary's Hospital in Newport for the effects of breathing in smoke.

Karen Harris, working in a nearby office, described seeing "thick billowing smoke", adding: "It's floating down the Medina River - you can see the thick cloud coming into the harbour.

"It keeps pulsing into the sky and it's obscured the floating bridge - its quite dramatic."

Image copyright Helen Cramp
Image caption A 200m cordon has been put in place
Image copyright Carol Kennesion
Image caption Residents in East Cowes were advised to keep their windows closed

Organisers of the Cowes Carnival charity, which stages processions throughout the island during the summer months, said new floats built to mark its 120th anniversary had been destroyed in the blaze.

Chairwoman Lynn Hammond said: "We've lost everything - floats, tools, new clothing, sashes, all our jumble sale stuff - everything. I don't know how we're going to manage. It's years of work gone.

"We're just a charity, people have lost their businesses, everyone has lost so much down there. But everyone was safe, that's more important."

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Media captionSmoke could be seen for miles

On the scene - Hannah Bewley, BBC News

There were plumes of black and grey smoke billowing over the Solent as I approached the Isle of Wight on the Red Jet passenger ferry.

At the edge of the police cordon there were a lot of people who could only stand there watching the dark smoke while they waited to hear if their livelihoods had been destroyed.

I heard quite a few loud bangs, which everyone seemed to agree were from gas canisters on the site.

People were crying as projects they had worked on for years were gone.

Clive Ford who had been working in a nearby industrial unit described the area filling with smoke.

"We all evacuated. I just hope the fire hasn't spread too much and I still have a business to go back to," he said.

Red Funnel said its vehicle ferry sailings between Cowes and Southampton had been suspended until further notice.

Image caption Smoke could be seen from the Isle of Wight ferry
Image copyright Ross Adamson
Image caption Residents in surrounding streets have been evacuated from their homes

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