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Firefighters respond to blaze at London hotel

Dozens of firefighters have been sent to tackle a fire at a hotel in the Knightsbridge area of London, the London Fire Brigade says.

Posted: Jun 7, 2018 7:37 AM
Updated: Jun 7, 2018 7:37 AM

A huge blaze tore through one of London's top hotels Wednesday, just days after it announced the completion of a multimillion-dollar renovation project.

More than 100 firefighters were sent to tackle the fire at the five-star Mandarin Oriental hotel, in the exclusive Knightsbridge district of the UK capital.

It was six hours before the blaze was brought under control, the London Fire Brigade said. Thirty-six hotel guests and 250 hotel staff were evacuated, it said.

The hotel group said it believed that everyone in the building at the time of the fire had been accounted for. The London Ambulance Service said Wednesday night that multiple crews had been sent to the scene but no one had required treatment.

First reports of the blaze emerged just before 4 p.m. Plumes of thick, black smoke were seen billowing into the air above Hyde Park as the fire took hold. Traffic in the area -- home to luxury stores Harvey Nichols and Harrods -- was brought to a standstill.

"Firefighters worked extremely hard in exceptionally hot conditions to bring the fire under control," said London Fire Brigade station manager Pam Oparaocha, who was at the scene.

The fire service said the blaze had damaged the hotel's "planting facade" and affected parts of the roof and several floors.

As part of the recent renovation, the hotel had installed "living walls" -- plants attached to the facade of a building -- in an interior courtyard.

A woman who had been in the hotel praised the evacuation. "Just evacuated Mandarin Oriental hotel to see this ... absolutely crazy!" wrote Anna Whiteley on Twitter. "So impressed by the organisation in bringing everyone to safety."

The Mandarin hotel group said guests had been accommodated at other nearby hotels. "We would like to thank the emergency services for their swift response, and are working closely with them to ensure the safety of the building," the group said in a statement.

"It is too early at the present stage to assess the full extent of the damage. A full investigation is underway and will take time to complete," it added. The fire service said it would remain at the scene for most of Thursday.

The Mandarin had recently been undergoing a major refurbishment of its 181 guest rooms and suites. In a news release announcing the completion of the project last week, the Mandarin said the rooms were "now more luxurious and comfortable than ever before." The largest suites, due to launch in July, offered "expansive views of leafy Hyde Park and the London skyline."

The hotel was built in 1889 and first opened as an exclusive gentleman's club, according to the group's website. Ten years later, a fire damaged the top three floors of one wing and destroyed a section of the roof. It was reopened in 1902 as a luxury hotel.

Members of Britain's royal family have often been guests at the hotel, the group said. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge held a gala dinner in the grand ballroom before their wedding in 2011.

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