London's historic Liberty store on fire

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of customers escaped uninjured after fire broke out at London's historic Liberty department store.

Hundreds of customers escaped uninjured after fire broke out at London's historic Liberty department store.

Thirty five firemen are tackling the blaze, which is thought under control, at the Regent Street shop.

The fire started in the basement just before 3pm and quickly spread to a lift shaft.

The London Fire Brigade said the blaze was contained but still burning.

A spokesman said: "The fire has been surrounded, which means it is not going to get any bigger, but obviously there is quite a bit of damage.

"It has affected 20 percent of the basement and also spread up one lift shaft to the second floor.

"The building and neighbouring properties were being evacuated by the time we got there. We have no reports of injuries at this stage."

The store, which specialized in oriental goods when it was established at the end of the 19th century, had a strong influence on taste and fashion, particularly in furniture and ceramics of the Arts and Crafts period, and printed silks and cotton fabric.

The present store, built in 1925, consists of two buildings joined by a three-story-high bridge. One building, with a Tudor-style facade, is paneled and decorated with ship timbers from old Royal Navy men o' war.

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