Terror of Northern Ireland people caught up in Liverpool car park inferno
A Co Down man who was caught up in a ferocious fire that gutted a multi-storey car park and destroyed up to 1,600 vehicles has described "explosion after explosion" as the flames ripped through the building.
Another Ulster woman said she thought it was a terror attack as fire engulfed the car park in King's Dock, next to the Echo Arena in Liverpool on New Year's Eve.
Dromara man Raymond Jess was there with 26 staff from his Mossvale Arena Party company - course designers for the massive Liverpool International Horse Show - when the fire broke out next door.
He said smoke filled the building and they had to rescue horses from the stabling area. He described how the raging fire was terrifying, with explosions going off every few seconds.
"We heard some talk about a car fire at around 4.30pm," Mr Jess said. "The powers that be said that it was contained and that they were looking at it, but as time went on it was clear that it was out of control.
"We had to stop the afternoon performance and bring the horses out of the stabling area and into the main arena. The stables were directly below the car park and there was water rushing in on them from the firemen's hoses.
"We brought around 38 horses in the arena and had to keep them calm.
"They were getting upset when the announcements came over the PA system for people to remain calm, that they were safe and to stay where they were. Everything was very well conducted.
"There was a lot of smoke coming into the main arena at one stage, but they closed the fire doors and put on extractor fans and cleared it. Everyone was very calm, there was no sense of panic.
"When we left the stadium we saw the full extent of the fire. We saw the flames coming out of every opening on every level of the multi-storey car park. They were raging flames. I was scared looking at it, to be truthful.
"We could hear explosion after explosion. It was like Beirut. And it sounded like gunfire going off. There were petrol tanks and oil tanks blowing up and tyres going up. It was really vicious. Some people had brought their dogs and left them in their car while they were at the show. They are all gone now."
Media reports have since stated that a number of dogs were rescued.
Kelda Morgan, who lives in St Johnston on the Londonderry-Donegal border was also at the Liverpool event with her young daughter Eliza.
"The first I knew anything was wrong was when all the grooms started running into the stabling area," she said. "Then all the horses came into the arena and the announcements came over the PA telling us what was happening. I think that these days in these situations you do think what it could be, something bad.
"We asked the security people and they told us it was just a car on fire and that they were containing it. But no-one was allowed out of the arena and the smell of smoke was coming heavy through the back doors.
"The wind was blowing the smoke in the other direction away from the arena. If it had blown in the other direction I wouldn't like to imagine what would have happened.
"We were in there for two hours before we were allowed to leave. There was smoke coming right through the arena but we were told to stay where we were. We went to the shopping area but the air in there was heavy with smoke as well.
"When we were allowed out that's when we saw the fire. There were loud explosions almost every second, the smoke was billowing out. It sounded like a firework display going off, it was so loud. I was scared then. I just wanted to get away and get home."
No-one was injured in the blaze believed to have started in the engine of a 4x4 vehicle.