A WOMAN and her child were rescued from a burning flat by firefighters.
Several people were also made homeless by the blaze which broke out in Haven House Hotel in Heygate Avenue, Southend.
The woman, in her thirties, was helped out of a side window and down a ladder with her four-year-old son by firefighters.
The building has been split into individual rooms which are rented out to tenants and also includes an Indian takeaway, the Red Rose Tandoori, on the ground floor.
One man, who gave his name as Chris, was the first to raise the alarm.
He said: “As I came in, the smoke was billowing out the kitchen. There was lots of smoke coming through the wall. When I went upstairs you could see the embers through the floorboards. I knocked on the lady’s room but she didn’t come out.
“I was knocking on the doors running round. It stunk of plastic, I came outside then.”
Residents spoke of their horror as they returned home to find smoke pouring from the building.
Keerthi Amarasinghe, 55, popped home from his job at the Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant on the seafront and was confronted with firefighters tackling the blaze.
He said: “I was coming back from work for my break. I was in total shock just seeing this pandemonium here. I never thought my flat would be on fire.
“I don’t know where I am going to sleep tonight.”
Another man, Deepal Morawaka, got a call from Keerthi telling him about the fire.
He said: “Me and my friend were watching Sri Lanka play cricket and I got a voicemail.
“I am going to see my mum in Sri Lanka on Saturday and my passport is inside, I have packed my bag and everything.”
Crews used Southend’s aerial ladder platform to get up on the roof and try to stop the fire spreading.
Station Officer Al Green said: "When we arrived at the scene we saw smoke coming from the roof voids and at a front, first floor window was a woman in her thirties and her toddler son. They did the right thing in getting to an open window and we were able to pitch a ladder and assist them down to safety. They were unhurt but were checked over by the ambulance service at the scene.
"The fire investigation is ongoing but at this stage it appears that the cause was accidental."