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Fire in central London: More than 100 firefighters sent to tackle blaze at Mandarin Oriental hotel

Dozens of residents, guests and members of staff were evacuated after a  fire broke out at one of London’s smartest hotels.

Guests at the five star Mandarin Oriental climbed several floors down external fire escapes to get away from thick black smoke billowing above them.

The fire came only a week after the completion of “the most extensive restoration in its 115-year history”.

Nearby clubs, shops and restaurants were also cleared after London Fire Brigade officers feared the fire could spread.

As firefighters on tall ladders doused the flames the evacuees, many of them dazed and in shock, gathered with curious onlookers along Knightsbridge to stare at the building.

London Fire Brigade dispatched 20 fire engines and 120 officers and firefighters to the hotel, which backs onto Hyde Park, along with several ambulances.

Witnesses told how at one stage several of the Mandarin’s guests returned inside the building, thinking they were safe – only to be ordered out again.

Simon Cockshutt, a retired solicitor, said: “People starting coming down the external fire escape as the thick black smoke billowed above them. At one point the smoke stopped and some of the guests went back inside. A few minutes later it started again and they started leaving again.”

Mr Cockshutt was among a group of 60 former pupils from St George’s School in Weybridge who were evacuated from the next door Royal Thames Yacht Club midway through their over-60s school reunion.

Gerry Johnson, an investment banker, said: “Suddenly we were told to get out. There’s a suggestion the fire started on the roof of the Mandarin, where they have been carrying out building work.”

The owners of the international hotel chain recently announced the end of renovation work “designed to confirm this historic hotel’s position as one of the best in the world.”

The hotel is located between Hyde Park and the Knightsbridge shopping district, which includes Harrods.

It is also directly next door to One Hyde Park – one of London’s most expensive buildings – where a five-bedroom apartment was placed on the market in 2015 for £75 million.

The scenes in Knightsbridge brought back stark memories of last year’s Grenfell Tower Fire, which claimed the lives of 72 people and is currently subject of a major public inquiry.

Penelope Evans, 50, from Battersea, south London, was shopping in Harrods when she noticed the thick smoke as she was leaving.

“I saw all this black smoke coming from the sky, it was covering everything and the smell was horrendous,” she said.

“It was like people were in shock, everyone immediately just started leaving the street and the area.

“After Grenfell, I feel like people are a lot more on edge about these things, people just wanted to get out.”

London Ambulance has sent its hazardous area response team (HART) to the hotel, but there have been no reports of injuries and paramedics have yet to treat any patients.

HART are specially trained medics who provide life saving medical care in hazardous environments including complex extractions and multiple casualty incidents.

The 12-storey Mandarin Oriental has previously been used by the Royal Family and the Queen hosted an event there on the eve of Prince William’s wedding to Catherine Middleton in 2011.

It was due to host another royal event tonight – the 50th Anniversary Dinner of the Blues and Royals Club – to be attended by The Princess Royal. 

But a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman told The Telegraph the celebration had been cancelled. 

A hotel spokesman said: “We are aware that there is a fire at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, and that the fire brigade is at the hotel.

“As the situation is still unfolding, we have no further details to share at this time, but will provide an update soon.”

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Designer outlets, bars and restaurants also evacuated

The Telegraph’s senior reporter Patrick Sawer is down at the scene outside the Mandarin Oriental. 

He said shops, restaurants and bars in the surrounding streets were also evacuated as Knightsbridge was sealed off, causing severe congestion in both directions at the height of the evening rush hour.

Among the premises evacuated was the department store Harvey Nichols, along with several of Sloane Street’s designer fashion stores.

The Princess Royal’s plans go up in smoke

The Mandarin Oriental was due to host another royal event tonight – the 50th Anniversary Dinner of the Blues and Royals Club – to be attended by The Princess Royal. 

But a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman told The Telegraph the celebration had been cancelled. 

A London Ambulance Service said: “We have not treated any patients, but we remain on scene as a precaution.” 

Firefighters ‘likely to be there throughout the evening’ 

London Fire Brigade Station Manager Pam Oparaocha is at the scene.

She said:“The smoke from this large fire was very visible across central London this afternoon and we received a number of emergency calls.

“Firefighters are working extremely hard to bring the fire under control. Crews wearing breathing apparatus are carrying out a search inside the building.

“Firefighters are likely to be there throughout the evening and once the fire has been brought under control fire investigators will take over to establish how the blaze started.”

Mandarin Oriental: Previous fire, royal connection and star resident chef

It is not the first time the property has been struck by fire, with a blaze in 1899 damaging the top three floors and destroying part of the roof.

The Queen used the hotel to host a gala dinner on the eve of the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.

She also learned to dance with her sister, Princess Margaret, in the venue’s ballroom, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group says.

The hotel is home to restaurants Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Bar Boulud.

It is located next to the south side of Hyde Park, opposite Knightsbridge Tube station and close to department store Harrods.

The hotel’s Loggia room features an entrance which is “reserved only for international royalty and those who gain permission from the Royal Household”.

London Fire Brigade appear to have the fire under control

The smoke has stopped coming from the roof of the hotel.

No smoke is visible as of 5.45pm looking down Brompton Road towards the hotel.

Lift engineer hit fire alarm when he saw flames

A tradesman working at the hotel said he saw a fire on the roof before raising the alarm.

The 19-year-old lift engineer, who gave his name as Harry, said: “I was in the lift and I hit the fire alarm button.

“I was in the lift shaft and I looked to my left and saw the geezers working on the roof.

“To my left there was a big fire.

“I said (to my colleague) ‘Lee, there’s a fire over there, let’s get out of the building. Get out the lift shaft, I’m being serious’.

“We ran down the stairs and went and got the scaffolder out of the loading bay.”

He said the builders on the roof had been cutting materials and doing other work during the day.

“I could see the orange flames on the roof,” he said.

Patients and staff evacuated from cosmetic clinic, doctor says

Patients and staff were evacuated from a cosmetic clinic next door to the hotel, a doctor said.

Dr Terry Loong said she and her team were ordered to leave the W One premises at 64 Knightsbridge at around 4pm by the London Fire Brigade.

“It’s really black smoke, it was billowing towards Harrods,” she said.

“We just saw lots of people pointing towards the hotel, I just saw this huge black smoke.”

She added that the fire looked to have “calmed down a lot” within the hour.

London Ambulance at the scene with hazardous area response team

A statement from Peter McKenna, deputy director of operations, said: “We were called at 4.04pm today to Knightsbridge to reports of a fire. 

“We have sent multiple resources to the scene, including our hazardous area response team (HART).

“We remain at the scene.”

The HART team are specially trained medics who provide life saving medical care in hazardous environments including complex extractions and multiple casualty incidents.

Mandarin Oriental just completed ‘most expensive’ restoration ever

The 12-storey Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park completed the “most extensive restoration in its 115-year history”, according to a statement published by owner Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group in May.

All 181 bedrooms and suites are “now more luxurious and comfortable than ever before” and the building’s “iconic facade was revitalised”, the company said.

The hotel is located between Hyde Park and the Knightsbridge shopping district, which includes Harrods.

‘Fire was in the middle of the hotel,’ businessman claims

A local businesswoman, who did not want to be named, said: “The fire was in the middle of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

“There was a lot of smoke. I couldn’t see anyone being evacuated but they had closed off the whole road.

“It’s quite a lot of smoke, you could smell it.

“I could see a lot of fire engines and police cars and some ambulances as well.”

Flames still visible at the roof of the hotel

Emergency services, including fire engines and ambulance vehicles, were still arriving at around 4.45pm.

Flames could be seen around the top of the hotel, and extended ladders were erected to access that area of the building.

Thick black smoke is billowing out of an area around the roof of the hotel.

Knightsbridge Tube station affected by the hotel fire

Transport for London said the blaze was also affecting entry and exit to Knightsbridge station.

It tweeted: “Knightsbridge: currently the Sloane Street entrance at the station is closed. Customers are advised to use the Harrods entrance. This is at the request of the emergency services.”

Harrods shopper could smell the ‘horrendous’ smoke from the shop

Penelope Evans, 50, from Battersea, south London, was shopping in Harrods when she noticed the thick smoke as she was leaving.

“I saw all this black smoke coming from the sky, it was covering everything and the smell was horrendous.

“It was like people were in shock, everyone immediately just started leaving the street and the area.

“There were hundreds of fire engines, ambulances, police racing by and helicopters overhead.

“After Grenfell, I feel like people are a lot more on edge about these things, people just wanted to get out.”

US tourist says he could ‘smell the burning’ from the Tube

Tourist Eric Bantug spoken of his shock at seeing a historic building on fire.

The 47-year-old financial services worker visiting from Las Vegas, US, said: “I was just coming up from the Tube and smelled the fire. I could smell burning.

“When I got up above ground I saw all the smoke coming out of the building. It’s pretty old and it’s a shame to see it happen.”

‘They were evacuating the building when I arrived,’ witness says

Jack Martin, a 21-year-old student from Peckham, said he was coming out of Knightsbridge station when he saw a “huge billow of smoke”.

He said: “I obviously was quite shocked when I saw all that smoke.

“But they were evacuating the building when I arrived, there were a fair amount of staff and guests and it was all fairly orderly.

“It was all quite calm and collected, there wasn’t any hysteria and I thought it was well organised.”

Emergency services had since cordoned off the road, he said, and although there were ambulances present he had not seen any signs of injury.

“I would say the fire is under control now. I can’t see any smoke, there are firefighters and the whole building is dripping wet right now,” he added.

Pictures from the scene of the fire in Knightsbridge

Smoke rising from the Mandarin Oriental hotel in central London.

Smoke rising from the Mandarin Oriental hotel in central London

Credit:
PA/John Stillwell

Firefighters tackle the blaze. Around 120 are currently at the scene. 

Firefighters tackle the blaze. Around 120 are currently at the scene

Credit:
Ben Stansall/AFP

Latest update from the London Fire Brigade

Twenty fire engines and 120 firefighters and officers have been called to a visible fire on the roof of a hotel in William Street in Knightsbridge.

Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/06/06/fire-central-london-almost-100-firefighters-sent-tackle-blaze1/

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