Arson has not been ruled out as police launch a probe into a fire which swept through a derelict building in South Tyneside.
Flames ripped through the five-storey former shipyard offices in Hill Street, South Shields on Saturday night.
The cause of the blaze is under investigation but police say they are “exploring all options.”
The alarm was raised at 6.47pm with 16 different 999 calls made.
At its peak, four fire appliances an aerial ladder platform were on the scene with crews from South Shields, Wallsend, Tynemouth and Marley Park in Sunderland.
The smoke billowing from the building could be seen across the water in North Shields.
It is too early in the investigation to say but police are exploring all options.Police spokesman
It had been thought people were inside the building but no one was discovered.
It took firefighters two hours to bring the blaze which damaged the first and ground floors of the property under control.
Three floors underground were unaffected.
Police were also called to attend.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: “Police enquiries are on-going to determine the circumstances around the fire.
“It is too early in the investigation to say but police are exploring all options.”
A spokesman for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue said: We received a call to reports of a fire in a five-storey derelict building which was formerly used as shipyard offices.
“The ground and first floor was severely damaged by fire and smoke. The remaining three floors, which are below ground were unaffected.
“Initially, we were told there was people in the building but we later found that not to be the case.
“Crews were on scene for two hours. The cause of the blaze has not yet been established.”
The building is near to where South Tyneside Council has revealed a new £200 million development to create new housing, business, leisure and potential industrial units.
The plans were unveiled at the start of the year.
Housing would be built on land bordered by Laygate and Laygate Street, while land for office accommodation would take in Hill Street, Nile Street, Cone Street and East Holborn.
The council expects to formally appoint a building partner during the summer months, subject to receiving satisfactory bids, with construction work set to begin in 2019.