Hero taxi driver shouted at residents to leave fire-stricken block of flats in Northampton as flames spread

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A quick-thinking taxi driver who helped evacuate residents of a Northampton block of flats that was engulfed in flames last night has been has been praised by people living there.

Fire crews were called to the Newlife Building 2, in Lower Cross Street at about 11.40pm, a spokesman for the fire service said.

A major fire on the fifth floor was beginning to spread, and residents of the apartment block had to be evacuated immediately.

The Newlife building today. The cause of the blaze at the block of flats last night is not yet known.

The Newlife building today. The cause of the blaze at the block of flats last night is not yet known.

Today the cause of the fire is still not known, though one first floor resident was told there had been an "explosion".

Taxi driver Luan Qesaraku, 32, and his wife Mikaela Jaku, were the first to see smoke coming from the Newlife building at around 11.30pm.

Mr Qesaraku, who lives opposite the flats in said: "For some reason my wife woke up in the night and opened the window.

"She said it looked like there was a small fire in the block opposite, but it started to increase.

"I called the fire service, then I went outside.

"I was shouting for people to leave the building, I don't know how many heard me. But I think I did the right thing."

Their neighbour, mum-of-five Deqa Shariff, described how hundreds of people had to be evacuated from the building.

She said: "Everyone was shouting, my kids woke up and they were scared, it was horrible. I was really worried sat the fire spreading."

Carol Lack, 48, was in bed in her first-floor apartment in the Newlife building, when she heard people shouting outside. She has praised the quick actions fo Mr Qesaraku, for spotting the flames quickly and then alerting the residents.

There have been no reported casualties so far.

"I just saw some blue lights and I thought there must have been a fire," said Ms Lack.

"I came out onto my balcony - people were screaming at me to get out.

"They said there had been an explosion.

"There was a lot of children out here as well.

"The fire brigade was very good because they gave all of the kids blankets. It was quite distressing for them."

However, she said the one-way system put in place around Lower Cross Street to prevent kerb-crawling appeared to hamper the emergency services. The first fire crew initially came around the wrong way and found their route blocked by bollards.

However, most people were full of praise for the firefighters who tackled the blaze last night.

Jason Kelly said: "I live in the other block and have to say the emergency response was very good.

"We were kept well informed and there were no half measures. Due to the size of the apartment block, there were a heavy amount of police and firefighters at the scene and some even attended as far away as Wellinborough. We haven't as of yet heard of any casualties so let's hope it stays that way."