THREE Hythe families will face an agonising six-month wait until they can move back home after a blaze ripped through their street.

Sonia Gibbons and her two sons are just one family who have been left with nothing after they fled their home as the fire spread through a terrace block.

But the neighbourhood is rallying around, helping with the clear-up operation, donating clothes and toys, as well as looking after stranded pets, as the homeless families try to rebuild their lives.

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Firefighters battle the blaze in Hythe

As previously reported, the blaze damaged eight homes in Elm Crescent after flames were spotted coming from one of the roofs.

Neighbours banged on the door of the house where the fire started, where those inside were eating breakfast, unaware that their roof was alight.

More than 40 firefighters descended on the street, battling to get the fire under control, while residents watched on helplessly.

Smoke and fire damage to three of the homes, including that of Ms Gibbons, was so severe that the families had to be rehomed by New Forest District Council.

Ms Gibbons, 49, a mum-of-two who cares for her 18-year-old son George, who has multiple learning disabilities, has been told that it could be as long as six months before they can move back.

She said: “We have got nowhere to live and we are having to sofa surf. We are just devastated by this.

“I would like to thank all the people who have been helping us. It is a great community where people help everyone out.”

One neighbour lending a helping hand is Amanda Young, who is looking after the three cats, Misty, Pigsy and Rosie, of one of the other families forced to leave their home.

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She said: “The whole community have rallied together, the community nurse has helped and next door neighbours have brought clothes to them.

“I think it is incredible so many people came out to help.”

Another neighbour, Cheryl Fields, has also been helping where she can and has been overwhelmed by the generosity of people.

She added: “Everyone has been brilliant.

“People have been giving them the odd £20 here and there and a lady came out with a bag of clothes and toys.”