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Two men badly hurt in flat blaze; Police probe suspected arson attack.

Byline: Laura Caroe

POLICE are investigating a suspected arson attack which left two men seriously injured.

Families living nearby were evacuated as crews from the Gateshead and Colby Court fire stations tackled the blaze in Old Durham Road, Gateshead.

A 20-year-old suffered serious burns and is in a critical condition and a 33-year-old, believed to be his cousin, suffered moderate burns after flames ripped through their upstairs flat on Sunday evening.

Police arrested a third man on suspicion of causing arson with intent to endanger life.

Neighbours spoke of their horror after the incident and said they had never seen anything like it before. One of the victims had to be resuscitated on the pavement outside the block of flats.

Dad-of-two George Rutherford, 40, said: "I heard a bang so I went to the window to see what was going on.

"I heard someone shout 'a man is on fire'.

"There was a guy who was black from head to toe, covered in soot. His tracksuit bottoms were melted to his legs. There was smoke coming off his back. Apparently he had jumped out of the back window. I think he was in shock. The police said he had run through the fire.

"I know both of them and they are not bad lads so I can't think who would have done this. I hope they are OK."

The entire flat was gutted by the blaze and all that could be seen was the blackened remains through the blown-out windows.

Police cordoned off the scene and two officers stood guard as they investigated the attack.

An officer on patrol had discovered the fire at around 6.30pm on Sunday.

Brenda Flanagan-Davies, 41, who lives near by, said she was shocked by the incident. She said: "It is really awful that two people have been hurt by this.

"Nothing like this usually happens around here, it is really frightening."

Officers said inquiries into the incident were ongoing and reassured families living in the area that it was an isolated incident.

Anyone with information can call 0345 604 3043.

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CAPTION(S):

STANDING GUARD A police officer stands outside the flat in Old Durham Road, Gateshead, where the fire broke out on Sunday evening. Two men were hurt in the blaze
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 13, 2010
Words:389
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