A fire which tore through a block of flats started because of a blast at a “cannabis factory,” according to neighbours. Five people have been hospitalised after the fire, with more than 70 firefighters sent to tackle the huge blaze.

According to neighbours, who did not want to be named, the blaze started because of gas canisters catching fire and exploding in the drugs factory. Cannabis relies on heat to grow and fires can break out because of the amount of lights used in illegal operations.

Huge clouds of smoke could be seen billowing from the residential block in Hornchurch, east London, roads were closed and both motorists and pedestrians were warned to stay away amid reports that debris was strewn around the area.

Battling the blaze

According to witnesses, the front of the apartment block was blown across the street by the force of the blast, while people living in buildings nearby say their own homes shook. Personnel from all three emergency services were called to the scene, with ten fire engines seen parked outside, while their crews tried to put the fire out.

Around 30 people had to be evacuated from their homes, with officials from the local authority called out to help in case anyone needed emergency accommodation. One neighbour said that they believed there was a cannabis factory on the ground floor and gas canisters had caught fire.

The neighbour said that the window frames were blown out 70ft into the street as a result of the explosion. Another witness said that cars which had been driving past on the nearby A127 had been struck by flying debris. He said he had seen one man bleeding from his ears, while another had a cut on his head. The Met Police, however, would not comment on any speculation about the cause of the fire.

Published by Elizabeth

A journalist from the South West of England, Elizabeth specialises in writing about politics, health and technology.