Page last updated at 08:22 GMT, Saturday, 23 July 2005 09:22 UK

115 homes evacuated due to fire

Firefighters were called to "a very severe" blaze
Firefighters were called to "a very severe" blaze

Residents of 115 homes in east Belfast have spent the night out of their homes due to a major fire.

Fire crews were called to a blaze at a garage on the Avoniel Road at about 1430 BST. At the height of the fire gas cylinders exploded threatening homes.

It will be Saturday afternoon before residents can return to their homes.

Fire Service area commander Chris Kerr said the fact houses close to the garage are still standing was a tribute to the courage of his firefighters.

He said when crews arrived they found a "very severe" fire in a garage which was threatening to spread rapidly to other garages.

"The houses adjacent to those garages were threatened by fire, the flames were literally bouncing off the roofs," Mr Kerr said.

He said it would be at least Saturday afternoon before the safety of residents of Avoniel Parade, Avoniel Drive and Avoniel Road, could be guaranteed in their homes.

Mr Kerr said firefighters, 80 of whom had worked in very hot and punishing conditions, would remain in the area for some time.

The fire had been contained and firefighters were damping down the gas cylinders, he added.

Evacuated families are being put up in the nearby Avoniel Leisure Centre.

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