A major fire which took 40 firefighters to extinguish has resulted in a woman being taken to hospital with critical injuries.

Crews were called to a serious fire in Marina Parade in Hastings at 12.34am this morning.

The woman, 66, jumped from the burning building and sustained injuries to her legs and body.

There was a mass evacuation of the areas surrounding the building and Hastings RNLI provided shelter and refreshments for residents who had to leave their homes.

The fire, which is being treated as unexplained, badly damaged the first and second floor as well as the roof space and caused homes’ and shops’ walls to collapse.

Jake Kelsall, 22, director of video production company Tuffyak, said: “We were at a friend’s house and we could just hear this really loud crackling and then saw the embers coming from the building.

“There were about 30 or 40 of us outside just watching the house up in flames and everyone was just shocked and terrified.

“People just had their heads in their hands as they watched their belongings and possessions just being burned – it was pretty crazy.

“We heard about the woman jumping from the building and apparently there were people using bedsheets to climb down from the windows of the burning building.

“There were police there, four or five fire engines, the ambulance and the firefighters were constantly spraying foam and water on the house but it just seemed to be getting worse and worse.

“It’s such a shame for those people who will have lost everything.

“I just hope everyone is ok.”

Hastings Borough Commander Nigel Cusack said: "It is obviously a distressing time for those whose homes and properties have been affected by this fire.

“Firefighters worked incredibly hard to limit the damage it caused and stop it spreading even further through neighbouring buildings.

“The fast response and operational tactics used prevented this becoming a larger scale incident.

“Building experts are now making the area safe so that a fire investigation can begin."

Detective Sergeant Suzy Joseph said; "We would like to speak to any witnesses, and in particular to three people, believed to be men, who held out a bedsheet or duvet the woman had thrown down, to try to break her fall. They left the scene without giving us their details.

"Those people, and anyone else who can help, are seeked to call us on 101 or email 101@sussex.pnn.police.uk quoting Operation Fox."