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TORRENTIAL rain caused havoc across Sussex yesterday as firefighters battled blazes caused by lightning and residents reached for their sandbags.
East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) received 57 flooding-related calls overnight, with areas in and around Brighton and Hove badly affected.
One woman thought a bomb had gone off when her chimney was struck by lightning and half of it crashed to the ground.
Eight fire crews battled a severe fire at a workshop on an industrial estate at South Heighton, on the outskirts of Newhaven, after it was believed to have been struck by lightning in the middle of the night.
Yesterday morning firefighters were still putting out the fire at The Old Cement Works Industrial Estate.
The workshop, home to Quayside Antiques, was destroyed and burnt-out furniture was still smoking.
John Piper, managing director of neighbouring manufacturing firm EJ Group, said: “It was terrible seeing the flames. Thank God no one was hurt.
“The spread of fire would have taken our buildings as well.
“The fire service did an amazing job removing my cars at risk from the flames.”
ESFRS said the fire was out by 3pm yesterday.
But the building was left unsafe and this would affect their ability to pinpoint the cause of the fire. However it is not being treated as suspicious.
Nick Jones, estate manager for Glynde Estates, who own the estate, said: “We are thankful no one was hurt but heartbroken for Quayside Antiques who have been restoring furniture here for several decades.
“We will be doing everything we can to limit disruption to our tenants and we would like to thank the emergency services for their work.”
A spokeswoman for ESFRS said no one was injured during the fire and an investigation is under way, with a building inspector expected to attend the site.
Meanwhile in Princes Crescent, Brighton, a mother told how she thought a bomb had gone off when her chimney was hit by lightning in the early hours of yesterday.
Julia Davis said: “It was about half past 12 and my son was sitting by the window, and he thought someone had thrown a bomb or a firework at him.
“He said there was big flash of white light and sparks.
“I went downstairs and I smelt burning – I thought the house had been hit by lightening.
“As I opened the front door there was rubble all over the place.”
Firefighters said the chimney was no longer ablaze when they arrived but they ensured that the property was made safe.
The spate of incidents was dealt with by crews from Preston Circus, Hove, Roedean, Barcombe, Herstmonceux and Shoreham.
Residents living in the areas most affected by flooding had to use sandbags and other defences to barricade their front gates and doors.
People in South Street, Portslade Old Village, were once again left to battle the deep water that filled the street.
The area is among those which suffers badly with heavy rainfall.
Student Jake Snow, 17, who lives in the street, said: “When it started raining we had to put out the sand bags as it was almost coming in the front door.
“But I don’t think it was done quick enough. Water started coming in through the back door into our kitchen.
“Last year I was the only one in when the flooding started so I had to rush to stop it getting in.”
Another South Street resident, Rita Newman, 73, said: “When it started thundering and raining that’s when we know it is going to flood here.
“You see a big puddle grow and spread across the whole road.
“The drains outside the post office are underneath the pavement and the water just doesn’t go into them.
“I couldn’t sleep properly because it makes you worry and watch from the window to make sure it doesn’t get inside.
“I had to drag heavy sandbags to the front gate myself. Luckily nothing came into my house but it came right up to the top of my doorstep.”
The Met Office issued a severe weather warning yesterday, saying more than an inch of rain and “frequent lightning” was expected across the South Coast.
A spokesman for ESFRS said: “Summer downpours can result in flooding damage and preparing for the worst can assist in keeping you, your family and your property safe.
“During extreme weather, we prioritise calls where lives may be at risk through a risk of fire or other emergencies. For example, when flood water is affecting electrics in buildings or where a building or structure has become dangerous to passers-by.
“Where lives are not at immediate risk, other organisations may be better placed to help.”
Source: The Argus