Hotel guests and staff fled as a blaze tore through the building in the early hours of the morning.

Dozens of firefighters tackled an inferno that destroyed the Gateway to Wales Hotel on Welsh Road, Garden City, Deeside, on Monday.

Guests at the hotel told the Leader how they had lost everything in the fire that took hold just before 4.30am, damaging 80 per cent of the ground floor.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

A total of seven fire crews, one from Flint, Mold, Buckley, Wrexham and Chester, and two from Deeside, together with two aerial ladder platforms from Wrexham and Chester turned out to the incident.

About 60 firefighters tackled the blaze throughout the morning, according to Stuart Millington, senior operations manager at North Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

On arrival firefighters found the roof space of the building well alight and used four sets of breathing apparatus, two hose reel jets and two main jets to tackle the fire.

All 47 guests and staff at the hotel were accounted for and evacuated to Deeside Leisure Centre in Queensferry along with residents in nearby homes.

North Wales Police advised motorists that lanes on the eastbound carriageway of the A494 were closed as emergency services dealt with the fire and advised drivers to use other routes.

Officers set up behind the Leprechaun pub opposite the hotel with vans and uniformed teams on duty while cordons were set up from the pub, closing off the area down to the shops on Welsh Road into Garden City.

The hotel is understood to have about 40 rooms and suffered severe damage to the roof at the front and rear of the building.

Fire investigators were at the scene while a drone was deployed by North Wales Police to survey the area from above.

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesman said they attended just before 4.45am.

Four ambulances, two rapid response vehicles, two duty officers and a hazardous area response team from the North West Ambulance Service were at the scene.

Some residents spoke of the dramatic evacuation after the fire broke out.

Danny Lawton, who lives in new flats next to the hotel with his girlfriend and baby, said he was woken up by police banging on his door just before 5am.

The 24-year-old machine operator said: “We grabbed the baby and her stuff and headed downstairs, and the car park was already full of people. The heat coming off the fire was immense.

“The whole roof and top floor was on fire and the surrounding area was just full of smoke and flashing blue lights. There was a dozen or more fire trucks and police cars.

“I was told to move my car as quick as I could as the heat would melt it – that’s how close it was.”

People with nowhere to go were offered shelter in the fire station, Mr Lawton added.

Stacey Roberts, 26, was staying in the hotel with her six-month-old son and partner when they were jolted awake by the fire alarm.

She said: “We’re homeless and that’s where Flintshire Council placed us. We booked in on Saturday night, so now we’re sitting with friends and family until the council office opens.

“The Gateway To Wales was our home. It’s just awful.”

Mr Millington said crews attended “very quickly and in numbers” as the fire was “very well developed” by the time they arrived.

He said: “At the height of the fire there were approximately 60 people (firefighters) on the scene.

“Crews worked very hard to bring the fire under control and to all intents and purposes it is out and just being dampened down now.

“The cause of the fire is still under investigation and will take place with our colleagues from the police.

“Our fire investigators are speaking to local residents and to people in the building. The building is quite badly damaged and therefore their abilitiy to get in and make their investigation safely will take some time.”

Sealand ward councillor Christine Jones said: “It’s absolutely devastating and a real loss to the area, but thankfully everyone got out safely.

“It’s a lovely hotel. It’s been here 20 years or so and is really well used by locals and guests from other areas.”