Two bodies found after fire ravages block in Manchester's Chinatown
Two bodies have been found after a fire tore through a disused building in Manchester's Chinatown, police said.
The discovery was made by firefighters tackling the blaze on Nicholas Street, which took hold just yards from the quarter's imperial arch in the early hours of Friday.
A number of roads in the city centre were blocked by the fleet of fire engines sent to deal with the fire, which at its peak illuminated the decorative gateway with the flames.
The fire threatened to cause disruption as shoppers headed out to grab Black Friday deals.
Chief Inspector Gareth Parkin, of Greater Manchester Police, said: "A joint investigation with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is in its early stages and we will be carrying out a number of inquiries to establish how this fire started."
Police received reports of the blaze at the junction of Faulkner Street shortly after 2.15am and it was eventually contained up to four hours later by more than 40 firefighters.
The partially collapsed building was severely damaged and the two bodies were later discovered on the first floor of the property.
Search dogs from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) and Greater Manchester Police have been deployed to ensure no other bodies are inside.
Speaking from the scene, GMFRS group manager Paul Etches said: "It is very, very unsafe in there at the moment and very difficult for crews to get in and work in and around. We have still got pockets of fire and quite a large area of the building has suffered quite a serious partial collapse.
"The roof has burnt through and it is very, very difficult to search the second and third floors of the building."
He said it was too early to determine the age or sex of the victims.
Asked to comment on rumours that the bodies were those of rough sleepers, he said: "We have heard the same but at this time there is nothing, no intelligence, we have found. It is too early to tell."
Mr Etches said the fire service would work with police to identify the victims and the circumstances of the blaze.
He added: "We are still carrying out, as best we can, a systematic search just to make sure that nobody else is in there. Obviously that is one of our key priorities."
Firefighters are dampening down the scene to make the building safe for further investigation which Mr Etches said would be "long and complex".