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Norwich apartment blaze leaves 150 homeless

Dozens of people are unaccounted for after a fast-moving fire destroyed an apartment complex in Norwich, Connecticut.
Image: Firefighters cool down the fire which destroyed the Peachtree Garden Apartments complex in Norwich, Conn.
Firefighters cool down the remains of the Peachtree Garden Apartments complex in Norwich, Conn., on Saturday. The 12 buildings of the apartment complex had a common roof and were destroyed.George Ruhe / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

All but one of nearly 150 people have been accounted for after a fast-moving overnight fire swept through their apartment complex, said a Norwich fire department official

Much of the 12-building Peachtree Garden Apartments was destroyed by the blaze that was reported at 1:30 a.m. Saturday. Parts of the 120-unit complex continued to smolder.

Authorities confirmed the locations of all but one of the apartment complex's residents, Fire Battalion Chief Tracy Montoya said. The name of the remaining resident was not released.

Local, state and federal authorities continued to investigate the cause of the fire.

Fire alarms worked, but the complex didn't have a sprinkler system because it wasn't required when it was built in 1976.

"It got ahead of us," said Fire Chief Ken Scandariato. "It was just too much fire to mount an attack to stop it."

'It was going to burn me'
Mohammad Sundal, 43, was spending his first night in his one-bedroom apartment when he awoke to the smell of smoke. His living room was already on fire, he said.

"It was so intense, the fire," Sundal said. "If I stayed for two more minutes, trust me, it was going to burn me."

Tenant Beverly Creed and her son, Travis, 17, were awakened by a downstairs neighbor. The complex's courtyard was already on fire as they ran to safety.

"It was scary," she said. "I just grabbed my purse and pair of sandals to put on."

Another tenant, Carol Rice, said she heard an explosion. "Then I opened my glass sliding door and the flames were just flying everywhere," she said. She escaped wearing a bathrobe and slippers.

"Oh, my God. I'm a total wreck," she said, sobbing. "My pills, all my medications are burnt."

Tenants were being taken to a nearby school set up for use as an emergency shelter.

Norwich is about 40 miles east of Hartford.