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Major fire damages arts centre

A major fire tore through an arts centre - sending thick clouds of black smoke billowing into the sky.

No one was injured in the blaze, at the Battersea Arts Centre in south London, which ripped through the roof of the grade two listed building, but devastated locals could be seen in the street crying as firefighters fought to control the flames.

More than a dozen fire engines and around 80 firefighters could be seen battling the fire, with many officers being hoisted into the air on extendable ladders to douse the flames from above.

Paul Foxcroft, 35, a comedian, was walking from his home in Battersea when he saw flames tear through the venue's bell tower.

He said: "The first thing I saw when I came out of my house were several fire engines hurtling past then I saw grey smoke in the sky.

"Crowds had started to gather. There were two ladies outside crying. I got the impression they were just so sad because they loved the building.

"It is an institution for the whole of the city of London. It is hugely popular so this fire will affect a lot of people. The back of the building was being renovated."

Nicholas Bennett, a magistrate at nearby Lavender Hill Magistrates' Court, said at the time that black smoke was engulfing the entire area.

He said: "It appeared to be getting worse, although I can't see the flames any more. But there is black smoke everywhere, engulfing the area.

"There are still more appliances arriving now. There are large numbers of people at the opposite side of the road to the fire. You can clearly see the firefighters at work."

It is feared the fire could have caused severe damage to the building, which recently played host to Labour leader Ed Miliband and deputy leader Harriet Harman when they visited on February 23 to launch their party's arts policies ahead of the general election.

Battersea Arts Centre confirmed that everyone had got out of the building safely, but said they would be cancelling this evening's performances.

They said: "Thank you to everyone for the kind words & well wishes. Everyone is out. Everyone is safe.

"We will not be running any performances this evening and we have also cancelled the performance of Missing tomorrow evening.

"We'd also like to thank LondonFire, metpoliceuk & Ldn_Ambulance who are handling the situation rapidly, safely and compassionately."


From Belfast Telegraph