Seven die in gay porn club fire

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The Independent Online
A FIRE which killed seven people in a gay pornography cinema in central London may have been started deliberately, police said last night.

One person was confirmed dead in St Bartholomew's Hospital, six more bodies were found on the second floor and up to 23 people were injured in the blaze at the Dream City cinema, St John Street, Smithfield.

A number of the survivors are battling for their lives in hospital after suffering severe burns and jumping from the second floor of the building. At least one person suffered multiple fractures leaping from an upper storey window as the building was consumed by fire.

The building went up in what witnesses said was a giant fireball late yesterday afternoon. Ken Emsley, station commander at Euston, and one of the first fire officers at the scene, said later: 'It was a horrific incident. The worst I have experienced in my 30 years in the service.

'It was absolutely chaotic. We were working under extreme conditions, with so many people trying to get out of the building.' At one point, about 20 people were scrambling to get on to a single turntable ladder.

The first, second and third floors were ablaze and flames were shooting out of the ground floor over the pavement when fire crews arrived, he said.

Men jumped from the second-floor cinema as more than 50 firefighters fought the blaze.

It was not known how many people were in the building at the time of the fire. The cinema was a small private club showing pornographic films. Mr Emsley said the building was known to the fire brigade and the escapes were satisfactory. He said: 'In my experience, it is possible for fires to spread quickly, depending on what's burning and what is happening in the building.'

Some badly injured casualties were being transferred to burns units at St Andrew's Hospital, Billericay, Essex, and East Grinstead, West Sussex. Others went to University College Hospital, St Bartholomew's and the Royal London.

Valerie Martin, 44, who lives nearby, watched as about 20 people were carried from the burning building. She said: 'The fire started in a passageway by the video and cinema and it seemed almost immediately to shoot up through the building and through the roof.'

Mrs Martin saw two men aged between 18 and 22 laughing at the blaze and gave their descriptions to the police.

She said: 'There were people sitting in the gutter groaning. Most of them seemed to have burnt hands. They were all in a daze and didn't seem to know what was going on.

'I helped one guy. He seemed to be aged about 23.

'His head, neck, arms and back were burned. Steam was coming off him like he had been in a microwave.'

A student who saw the fire said: 'I saw two bodies lying on the ground outside the cinema. The flames went shooting up right through the building. It was really powerful - a fireball.'

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