Body found after Harrogate hotel fire

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The Independent Online

A body has been found in a Victorian hotel that was devastated by fire today, police said.

North Yorkshire Police said the body was discovered on the fifth floor of the Majestic Hotel in Harrogate after the blaze, which broke out at around 5am.

Officers were unable to confirm the identity of the victim and whether or not it was a member of staff who was unaccounted for following the evacuation of the hotel.

A police spokeswoman said: "We can now confirm that police and fire officers investigating the fire at the Majestic Hotel in Harrogate have sadly located a body. The body was found on the fifth floor of the hotel.

"At this stage we are unable to confirm the identity and whether or not it is the member of staff who remained unaccounted for.

"We will not be in position to release their name until formal identity has been carried out.

"Police and North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service remain at the scene and will be carrying out an investigation to establish the cause and circumstances of the fire.

"Hotel guests are being allowed back into the hotel to retrieve their belongings under controlled conditions," the spokeswoman added.

Early this morning, residents were forced to escape in their night clothes as the blaze ripped through the upper floors of the town-centre hotel.

More than 130 guests were moved out of the building and took shelter in a nearby hotel as the emergency services dealt with the fire.

A male member of staff was reported unaccounted for as 90 firefighters tackled the blaze.

It is thought the blaze may have started in one of the top-floor rooms, some of which are used as staff quarters.

Witnesses reported seeing flames coming from the roof of the hotel.

Police said the fire was "potentially suspicious" but an exact cause had yet to be established.

Superintendent Ken McIntosh said: "At this stage the cause of the fire is not known and a full examination of the the scene will be carried out by fire investigators and police. It is too early to say if there are any suspicious circumstances."

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service group manager John Foster said 16 fire appliances were sent to the scene.

"We believe the fire to involve top-floor bedrooms and the roof area with fire and smoke emitting and members of the public making over 13 repeated calls to the fire service."

He said 130 guests were evacuated along with about 25 members of staff.

One guest, Julian Harrison, from Wolverhampton, said: "Everybody was very calm.

"A majority of people thought somebody had just set off the alarm with a cigar but on the way down, firemen were running up the stairs past us and we knew then it was something more serious."