'I'm lucky to be alive' - Woman flees her home after suspected arson attack on Sunderland takeaway
A woman says she is 'lucky to be alive' after a fire broke out in the takeaway below her flat in a suspected arson attack.
Residents were forced to flee their homes after a fire tore through Forhan's, in Ethel Terrace, Castletown, spreading to the flats above.
Police are continuing to investigate the blaze, which is being treated as a suspected arson. Sarah Schonewald, who lives directly above the Indian takeaway, was awoken by a loud relentless banging and soon found thick black smoke tearing through her floorboards.
The 32-year-old said: "At first I thought it might have been the neighbours but it was so loud and it didn't stop.
"I live on my own and I was a bit nervous so I got up and looked outside. It was so smoky and dark.
"I walked through to the back of my flat and smoke was coming through the floorboards and I just ran. I left in my pyjamas with no shoes on and called 999 on my way out.
"There was a couple on the corner and they asked if I was OK, we went and knocked up the neighbours.
"I'm lucky to be alive after what happened. I don't know how long it will be until I can come home."
After calling the emergency services, Sarah says she woke up her neighbours.
She said: "In a way I'm glad I was there, if I wasn't I don't know how long it would have been until people realised what was happening.
"I live right above the takeaway so I was the first to know. It was just instinct to get out and try wake people up."
Sarah's flat has been ruined by significant smoke damage and the sales advisor doesn't know how long it will be until she can return to her home.
"I've only been living in my flat since June so I've spent time and effort redecorating it," said Sarah. "I'm absolutely devastated I've been crying all day."
As well as the suspected arson, bosses at the takeaway said they were also victims of theft."I'm devastated for the guys downstairs. They are so lovely. It's such a shock really that someone could do this.
"I'm just really grateful for all the messages of support. I love my home and it doesn't matter what has happened I'll be going back to live there when I can. I just don't know how long it will take before that happens."