A SANDOWN business has been left devastated in the wake of the Ocean Hotel fire ­— and its owner said he reported trespassers to the police a week before.

An investigation is currently underway to determine how the fire started, and police are appealing to the public for information.

Gamal Ragheb, of Zest ­— a shop which sells beach goods, souvenirs and vaping products on the High Street ­— says he reported disturbances in the hotel to police on a number of occasions.

He says he saw and heard trespassers throughout the week, from Bank Holiday Monday through to Friday.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Three times, in 2019, Zest was the target of vandalism. As a result, Gamal finds it difficult enough as it is to get insurance for his shop.

Now, with most of his shop and stock damaged by water ingress, insurance costs will be at a premium.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Furthermore, with the hotel declared structurally unstable as a result of the fire, Gamal has been told he must stop trading.

He rents his shop from the hotel, and does not know when he will be allowed to reopen. He watched on helplessly last night as the fire raged.

"Young people have been going into the hotel for a while now," said Gamal.

"I saw them laughing, listening to loud music, smashing doors.

Isle of Wight County Press:

The floor in Zest's stock room is sodden.

"I phoned the police and they said they couldn't do anything because no one was in danger and there wasn't a landlord to talk to.

"I said OK, but I'm concerned about my business, which could catch fire.

"They just told me to contact my local council.

"All week, I heard noises, but there was no point in phoning the police.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Water has travelled down the stairs into the shop.

"On Saturday, it was exactly the same thing ­— lots of loud bangs and smashing.

"My neighbour heard it, too. I went to the back and opened the window, and I saw two teenagers walking upstairs.

"They were listening to loud music and smoking.

"I didn't phone the police, because I knew I'd get the same answer.

Isle of Wight County Press:

"I shut the shop around five, went home, and around seven o'clock I saw it all over Facebook.

"It's so frustrating, sometimes you just want to give up.

"You feel there's no justice ­— it's powers beyond your control.

"And now, you look in the back. Everything is soaking wet, the stock has been ruined.

Isle of Wight County Press:

"I didn't sleep last night. We forewarned, and that's what's so frustrating about it.

"I don't know how long it will be before we can open again."

Hampshire Constabulary has been approached for a statement.

Isle of Wight County Press:

The Ocean Hotel, Sandown.

UPDATE 8pm: 

Present Times, which is adjacent to Zest, has also been impacted by the fire. 

The shop's owner, Jo Langford, said: "We will be closed Monday, for obvious reasons.

"I can’t be sure of the integrity of the ceiling and until I do I don’t want to put anyone at risk. So it may be longer, I just don’t know at this time.

"I mainly wanted to say a really big thank you, firstly to the wonderful fire brigade who had to put themselves at risk to fight that horrendous fire and did all they could to save our businesses.

"And also to all you wonderful, caring, lovely people who sent me messages, rang me, spoke to me last night, gave me a coat, a blanket, offers of food and drink — and all the offers to get the stock out of the shop last night.

"Although we weren’t allowed, it really showed how great you all are and how much you care, so thankyou for that, I really do appreciate it.

"As far as the shop is concerned, it’s smelly and wet, so there is some work to do, but it could have been a lot worse.

"It was close. Onwards and upwards, it’s the only way."