FIREFIGHTERS battled a major blaze after lightning struck an apartment block in Greenock, as thunder storms swept along the west coast of Scotland last night.
Emergency services received 27 calls to the incident at Heritage Court, Campbell Street at around 6.10pm.
Eyewitnesses reported hearing a loud thunderclap and a flash of lightning before seeing smoke emitting from the four-storey building. Huge flames could be seen moments later as the blaze took hold of the roof.
David McAleer, 62, lives across the road from the apartment block and captured pictures of the fire on his camera.
“I was standing at the window watching the rain thundering down when I saw a lightning strike close by”, he told The Scotsman.
“Moments later I saw the smoke coming from the block of flats across the road, which is about 200 yards away.
“It began with smoke coming from the roof, then the fire began to build and you began to see flames. It soon took hold of most of the roof space.”
Firefighters rescued 14 residents from eight flats and dozens of others from nearby properties were evacuated from their homes because of the severity of the fire. Fire chiefs said 30 crew were deployed to prevent the flames from spreading along the roof space to the other homes within the complex.
No residents were injured but the building has been severely damaged, they added.
Flash floods hit the Greenock and Port Glasgow area at around 6pm in what fire chiefs said was a “short but dramatic downpour”.
In total, 23 individual calls were taken related to flooding in the area between 6pm and 8.15pm. Rainfall estimates suggest that up to 20mm fell yesterday in Glasgow and the west and southern parts of Argyll and Bute.
Roddie Keith, who was commanding crews at the scene, said: “To have a significant fire in the town at the same time as multiple flooding incidents was unusual.
“Our operational crews from Greenock, Port Glasgow and the surrounding area were fantastic and worked hard to provide much-needed assistance, moving from one incident to the next without stopping for breath.”
Flood alerts remain in place across Scotland as thundery showers sweep the country.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has issued “be prepared” notices for much of the country.
The rainstorms follow a three week heat-wave during which some of the hottest temperatures for years have been recorded.
Billy Payne, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, said 18mm of rain was recorded in Drumnadrochit in the Highlands between 7am and 7pm today.
Islay received 16mm and 14mm fell on Prestwick in Ayrshire.
He said: “The rain band is moving north and breaking up with heavy thundery showers across southern and central Scotland.
“There have been a few lightning strikes in the Glasgow area and it’s possible that 20mm of rain has fallen locally since daylight began.”
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service last night said it had received several calls about flooding in the Strathclyde area.
Road maintenance firm BEAR Scotland has postponed resurfacing work on the southbound M9 due to be done at the weekend because of the forecast.
Scottish Power last night said “pockets of customers” are without power in the Musselburgh and Tranent areas.
Some flooding was reported in the Borders, at Eyemouth and Kelso.
In Glasgow, the newly-refurbished Tollcross International Swimming Centre was forced to shut because of problems with the building’s rainwater system.