A heavily pregnant woman has died following a fire at a block of flats in Essex, which police believe was started deliberately. The 30 year old, who has not yet been named, was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries following the blaze at the flats in Balmoral Road, Southend on the evening of Saturday (7 May 2016).

Police have now confirmed that the woman, who was in the latter stages of her pregnancy, died from her injuries on Monday (9 May 2016). A further 14 people, including an eight-week-old baby, were evacuated from the ninth floor of the building while firefighters tackled the blaze.

Essex Police have now launched a murder investigation following the fire, which they are treating as suspicious. Senior investigating officer Al Pitcher, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "This is a very sad and distressing incident, in which a young woman and her unborn child have lost their lives in tragic circumstances.

"Her family are now having to come to terms with their devastating loss. A number of other residents have also been left homeless as a result of this blaze. We would appeal for anyone with information about what happened that evening to please come forward and help us find those responsible for this fire.

"The fire was started in the communal area close to the victim's home on the ninth floor, and we are still exploring whether or not this was a targeted attack. We are reviewing CCTV as part of our extensive enquiries and are appealing for witnesses who saw anybody acting suspiciously in or around the block of flats around the time of the fire, or in the days leading up to the incident.

"Whoever was responsible may have suffered minor burns or have returned home with the smell of smoke on their clothes.

Six others were admitted to Southend University Hospital in total – one in a "serious" condition and five others suffering from minor smoke inhalation.

Those with any information have been asked to contact Essex Police on 101 or email scdappeals@essex.pnn.police.uk. They can also contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 and www.crimestoppers-uk.org.