Artworks 'safe' after the Royal Academy goes up in in flames

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The Independent Online

More than 60 firefighters were called to a blaze at a Royal Academy of Arts building in London.

The fire broke out yesterday at the former Museum of Mankind, now owned by the Royal Academy, in Piccadilly. Part of the roof and first floor was damaged, a London Fire Brigade spokesman said.

The three-storey building in Burlington Gardens was empty, undergoing renovations in order to show the exhibition USA Today: New American Art from The Saatchi Gallery. The exhibition, due to open on 6 October, is likely to be postponed, the Saatchi Gallery said.

The fire broke out on the west corner of the roof, a spokesman for the Royal Academy said. One eye-witness, Shannon Gordon, said: "All of a sudden I looked up and there were more flames. Then there was a big bang as the roof collapsed."

The fire started at 1.45pm yesterday, and was brought under control at 5.30pm.Nearby buildings, including the main Royal Academy site, were evacuated.

Mary Anne Stevens, Acting Secretary of the Royal Academy of Arts, said: "The carefully coordinated emergency procedures of the Royal Academy and the effective management of the incident by the fire and police services appear to have limited the damage to one gallery and the roof."

No works of art were believed to have been damaged. The Royal Academy's main site will be open today.