FAMILES had to be evacuated from their homes following a suspected arson attack in an underground car park in Grays.

Residents reported being woken by a loud explosion following the attack on Martello Close around 1.20am on Friday (7th).

At least one car was badly damaged in the explosion, which three fire crews managed to extinguish by 2.44am.

The blast also damaged vital gas and electric equipment.

A National Grid spokesman said 13 of the 18 homes on the estate were without gas after pipes were disconnected as a precaution. There is currently no estimate as to when they’ll be turned back on.

Andrew Bone, who lives on the estate, said he hasn’t been allowed back in his home since the incident whilst engineers from National Grid attend the scene, and fears he and others could be out of their homes for weeks due to the damage.

He said he has two cars in the car park where the explosion happened and is yet to see what damage has been caused , but has been told the scene looks “like a bomb site”.

Mr Bone said: “When the fire brigade came and told us to get out you couldn’t see a thing, there was smoke everywhere. We’ve all been sent to hotels and other places to stay.

“I’ve got two young kids so this is difficult. There’s no water, gas or electric in the homes. We could be out for weeks.”

The attack is the fourth in six months in Little Thurrock. In October and December last year, car dealership Mini and Acy Exports, on the Globe Industrial Estate, in Towers Road, was targeted, destroying, 16 vehicles.

The same dealership was attacked again in January, where a further six vehicles were damaged.

A joint police and fire service investigation will be carried out to establish the cause of this morning’s blaze.

A police spokesman said: “Officers were contacted by the fire service shortly after 1.30am on Friday following reports that a number of cars were on fire in an underground car park on Martello Close.

“They arrived and found only one car caught alight. However the blaze had melted sewage pipes affecting approximately 10 households. “