More than 40 people were evacuated from their homes after suspected explosives were found in a flat in a tower block.

Army bomb squad officers and armed police were called to Grove Hill, Brighton, at 7.20am on Saturday after suspicious items were found by fire crews called to deal with a leak.

Firefighters were forced to break in to the fifth floor flat because the occupant was away.

They discovered items they believed to be “hazardous and potentially explosive”, sparking a major incident response from emergency services.

The Army bomb squad was called in and residents told to leave their properties.

Barry Bartholomews, who lives on the fourth floor of the 12-storey block, said: “The problem all started with what we though was a a gas leak.

“Then the police were banging on all the doors.

The policeman came in and said they had found something in the flat above me and I had to move us to somewhere safe.”

Another resident said: “It started with a leak on the sixth floor that they thought went through to a flat on the fifth.

“They tried to get into the guy’s flat but he’s away in China.

“When they got into his flat they found whatever it is and they were obviously pretty worried.”

Another resident who did not wish to be neamed said: “We have had the Army and armed police.

“I asked one of the policemen ‘are you sure it is not a prank call?’ and he said no, he had seen the device.”

Explosive ordnance officers examined the flat and left the scene at around midday telling residents they could return home.

Police told residents the item they had found had been potentially dangerous but had turned out not to be a bomb.

A spokeswoman for Sussex Police described the device as “hazardous and potentially explosive” but said the suspicious items had been made safe.

Detective Superintendent Carwyn Hughes said: “Thank you to everyone for their patience.”