AN Indian restaurant owner today vowed not to be defeated after his premises were gutted in a firebomb attack thought to be racially motivated.

Azambor Miah, of the Agra restaurant in Hapton said £30,000 of stock was destroyed in the blaze which police say they are investigating as a possible racial incident.

Mr Miah, who has owned the business for eight years, said: "When I arrived police were there and there was smoke at the back of the building.

"It could have been a lot worse - there were about 50 customers in earlier so somebody could have been killed.

"It is not human what they have done. The smoke and heat damage has ruined everything. We have lost everything."

The 200 seater restaurant, on Accrington Road, was completely gutted by the fire. Intense heat caused by the flames melted the air conditioning system and everything inside was ruined by smoke damage.

An estimated £30, 000 of stock, including several cases of champagne, in an upstairs storeroom is also feared to be lost through contamination and is being examined by environmental health inspectors.

Nofor Ali, a partner in the business, said: "I was in a daze when it happened.

"It is not the money but the sentimental value of all the hard work that was put in to get the business to where it is.

"We have had more than 100 calls from customers wishing us well."

Mr Miah, who also has the Akash takeaways in Accrington, Brierfield and Darwen, vowed not to be defeated by the attack.

He said: "About 99 per cent of our customers are English and we have good relations with them.

"We have never had any trouble before and this is not going to ruin the business.

"It will probably take about three months to get it all cleaned up, rebuilt and reopened but we will do it."

The fire is being treated as deliberate and forensic investigations are continuing.

Brian Cain, assistant divisional officer for community fire safety in East Lancashire, said: "The cause of the fire is being investigated and we would like to speak to the man who made the call to the fire service from the telephone kiosk outside the Hapton Inn.

"If anybody else has any information on this incident they should also call to help us with our enquiries."

The number is 01282 422522 or Crimestoppers 0800 555111