By Christian Fuller
A 400-year-old hotel that was housing Ukrainian refugees has been engulfed by a major blaze.
The fire started in a property in North Street, Midhurst, in the early hours, before spreading to the roof of the Angel Inn hotel next door.
More than 30 people, including “a number” of Ukrainian refugees, have been evacuated, firefighters said.
The community was praised for its “generosity and keenness to help” after an appeal for donations was inundated.
Local resident David Behan, who witnessed the fire, said the refugees spent the night in a nearby Indian restaurant before they were transported to a leisure centre, from where they have been re-homed.
Mr Behan said: “They arrived at Christmas with very little. And what little they had, they’ve just completely lost, which is desperate.”
Midhurst Town Council arranged a donation point nearby for those who have been affected by the fire.
The site became inundated with donations and closed only hours after it opened.
A council spokeswoman said: “We have been overwhelmed by people’s generosity and keenness to help, and now have everything we need to provide support for those who have lost their homes and belongings.”
At the scene
Ben Moore, BBC News, Midhurst
The refugees had been very much welcomed into the community here. Some had jobs, and you’d often hear people speaking Ukrainian on the streets.
The Angel Inn has been here for about 400 years, and has been owned by the same family for at least two generations.
The firefighters have told some of the residents that the building cannot be saved. It is going to have to be demolished.
It would be a horrible thing to have to lose for Midhurst.
Another local resident, Hilton Holloway, said some children were among those evacuated from the hotel, which he said had about 15 rooms.
“I spoke to one young woman who seemed relatively calm,” he added.
The cause of the fire is not yet known. Four people were treated at the scene but did not require hospital treatment.
Road closures are in place, and firefighters, police and paramedics remain at the scene.
The fire brigade said crews were called to North Street at 01:08 GMT, and 15 fire engines and two aerial ladder platforms were deployed.
Firefighters were met with a “significant fire in the roof space” at the hotel, which spread to neighbouring properties, a spokesman said.
“More than 30 people, including a number of Ukrainian refugees, were safely evacuated from the buildings, and they are now being looked after in a local relief centre,” he added.
Speaking at the scene, the brigade’s area manager, Richard Abbot, said: “We are advising residents to keep their windows and doors closed as there is large amounts of smoke in the area.
“It’s too early in the incident to know the cause of the fire, however we will be investigating the fire as soon as it is safe to do so.”
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