Fatal fire: Man appears in court charged with murder over blaze in Reading
A man has appeared in court charged with murder and arson after a fire left one person dead in Reading.
Hakeem Kigundu, who's 31 years old, is accused of starting a blaze at a building in Rowe Court, Grovelands Road, at around 3am on Wednesday.
One person has been confirmed dead following the blaze and two people are still missing, while others were treated in hospital following the incident.
The building was so badly damaged by the fire that it is unstable.
Reading Magistrates' Court heard that the identity of the victim is still unknown.
Kigundu spoke only to confirm his name, age and address.
He will appear at Reading Crown Court on Tuesday.
Kigundu, of Rowe Court, is charged with one count of murder and one count of arson with intent to endanger life.
Police said the next-of-kin of the two missing people had been informed and were being supported by specially trained officers
Witnesses to the inferno described seeing people jumping from the building to escape the flames.
Witnesses heard an explosion and some residents were forced to jump from the building to try to escape the fire, the PA news agency reported.
Others described a woman jumping or falling from an upper floor.
Four people were treated in hospital while another seven received medical care from ambulance crews at the scene following the fire.
Doug Buchanan, from the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, told journalists that firefighters had rescued one resident with a ladder while another was talked to safety by a call handler.
The source of ignition of the fire is not yet clear.
On Thursday evening, Thames Valley Police said officers remained on scene with specialist teams assessing the structural damage to the building.
The building was so badly damaged by fire that it has been left unstable.
“The extent of the damage and the need to ensure the safety of those carrying out this work means we are likely to be working in the area for a significant length of time,” a spokesperson said.
Reading Borough Council says it has provided seven residents with emergency accommodation. Other displaced residents are staying with family or friends.
While some people in the local community have been donating physical items to help those displaced by the fire, councillors are asking for financial donations instead.
Speaking to ITV Meridian, Reading Borough Council Leader, Jason Brock said, "I've been so impressed with the community response.
"The outpouring of sympathy and affecting, and of course all those donations that have been made and all of the work that the community sector has put in to support those who have been displaced.
Jason Brock, Leader of Reading Borough Council
He added, "It's a great effort across different departments of the council, working alongside emergency services, and family liaison officers, Thames Valley Police and of course voluntary sector partners to check that we can provide all of that holistic support that is required.
"At the end of the day, these are people who aren't going to be able to return to their homes, who've lost their possessions.
"It's clearly a very traumatic experience, which is going to require work throughout the Christmas period and far beyond that as well."
Residents not already in contact with the council who require help or support following the fire are being asked to call the contact centre on 0118 9373787.