Most residents of Belfast tower block return home after blaze

A fire at a high-rise tower block in Belfast damaged 18 flats, the UK Housing Executive said.

The property where it started was badly impacted while water and smoke affected the rest but most residents evacuated returned to their homes yesterday.

The blaze burst through windows of a ninth-floor apartment in Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry near Belfast, causing scorch damage on two sides of the 14-storey property on Wednesday evening.

Residents who said they had lost everything have begun fundraising but firefighters have been praised for averting loss of life.

A statement from the UK Housing Executive said: "Our response maintenance staff worked overnight on a clean-up operation and our contractors are on site today again, going door to door ensuring the electrics are safe in each home.

"We expect to have the majority of residents who were unable to return to their homes last night at Coolmoyne House, back in their homes today."

Two people were hospitalised after a fire suspected to have been caused by a toaster.

Residents expressed anger and claimed some alarms did not sound but firefighters said systems worked as expected.

DUP leader Arlene Foster was among those visiting the tower on yesterday.

She said: "Everyone has pulled together during this frightening experience."

A crowdfunding page has been established.

It said: "We are trying to raise money to help the residents of Coolmoyne House that were affected by the fire and have been left with nothing."

The man whose flat caught light was rescued by firefighters who helped lead other residents to safety.

Paramedics tended to four patients, a Northern Ireland Ambulance Service spokesman said.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said the alarm system operated as designed, with the alarms inside the man’s flat sounding and a soundless alarm system in the communal area to open air vents also activating.

Alarms in other flats should only have sounded if they detected smoke, the organisation said.

Crews had averted the spread of the fire to other flats.

Robert Zwaagman, who lives on the 12th floor, said the first he knew of the blaze was when fire crews arrived.

He insisted an alarm should have sounded throughout the building.

The Housing Executive said it took residents’ safety extremely seriously.

"We work closely with the Fire Service to ensure we remain fully compliant with all fire safety regulations, have robust fire safety regimes and carry out regular inspections in all of our high rise buildings," it said.

In Coolmoyne, each of the 56 flats have two smoke alarms and one heat detector alarm installed.

The communal hallways are fitted with a silent smoke detection system, which is monitored 24 hours a day.

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