A retirement home complex has partially collapsed after a fire tore “right through” the building, forcing the evacuation of 150 residents.

Emergency services have been at the Beechmere supported living development in Crewe since around 4.30pm on Thursday, with more than 70 firefighters tackling the blaze throughout the night.

While the majority of the building has fully collapsed, fire crews are still hoping to preserve one part of the property and will likely remain on the scene for most of the weekend, Cheshire Fire Service’s Neil Griffiths told Heart News.

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"At the moment we are in a position where we are trying to damp down,” he said. “But we still have pockets of fire that we need to extinguish."

Residents were evacuated to an emergency refuge centre established at Crewe Lifestyle Centre, Cheshire Police told The Independent

Beds have since been found in nearby nursing homes for the majority of residents and many have already been transferred. A small number were taken to hospital to be checked over, police said.

Reports quickly emerged of the possessions and, in some cases, pets, that had been lost in the fire. The daughter of Nora Bangnall, 85, told the BBC how her mother had been left with “only the clothes she was stood up in”.

Eyewitness accounts, including those of the first firefighters on the scene, suggested the fire started in the roof.

Mr Griffiths said "significant progress" was made overnight to bring the fire under control, and that the weather both helped and hindered their work.

"We have had lighting strikes which has meant suspending our aerial operations, and then we have had significant quantities of rain which has assisted us," he added.

Police continued the praise for neighbours who swiftly offered support, donated items and provided lifts for some of those affected.

A JustGiving page had already raised nearly £20,000 at 3pm on Friday.

Superintendent Pete Crowcroft, of Cheshire Police, said: "This is a very large fire in a building that is at the heart of the community.

"Naturally this will have a significant impact on those living close by and they will clearly be concerned for all those affected.

"But the response shown last night within minutes of the incident being reported was nothing short of remarkable and I want to thank every single person who has helped or offered help in some way."

Additional reporting by PA

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