London Zoo fire: Aardvark unaccounted for and staff treated for smoke inhalation as blaze shuts attraction

Staff rush to save animals after flames break out in petting area

Chris Baynes
Saturday 23 December 2017 11:26
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Fire breaks out at London Zoo

Eight people have been hurt and an aardvark remains "unaccounted for" after a fire ripped through buildings at London Zoo, shutting the tourist attraction.

Several staff members were treated for smoke inhalation and shock following the blaze, which began in a petting area and spread to a nearby shop and cafe.

Zoo workers rushed to save the animals after flames broke out at about 6am.

The fire started in the Animal Adventure zone, a children's zoo which houses goats, sheep, donkeys, llamas, aardvarks, meerkats, and pigs.

"Duty staff that live on site at the zoo were on the scene immediately, and started moving animals to safety," said a zoo spokesman.

"A number of zoo staff have been treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and shock.

"Our staff are now in the process of assessing the situation in difficult conditions. At present one aardvark is currently unaccounted for."

London Ambulance Service said it treated six people for smoke inhalation and two for minor injuries. One was taken to a north-west London hospital.

Seventy-two firefighters with 10 engines battled for more than three hours to bring the blaze under control and prevent it spreading to other animal enclosures.

Firefighters tackle flames at London Zoo (REUTERS)

About three-quarters of the cafe and shop and half of its roof were ablaze. Pictures from the scene showed firefighters hosing down roaring flames as smoke billowed from the building.

The blaze was under control by 9.16am.

London Zoo's spokesman added: "We are immensely grateful to the fire brigade, who reacted quickly to the situation to bring the fire under control.

"The zoo will remain closed until further notice, and we will work closely with fire investigators to determine the cause of the incident."

Firefighters at London Zoo after bring the flames under control

London Fire Brigade stations manager Clive Robinson said: "The fire mainly affected the cafe and shop. Part of nearby animal petting area was also affected although at this stage we don't know if any animals were involved.

"Firefighters worked hard to bring the fire under control as quickly as possible and to stop it from spreading to neighbouring animal enclosures.

"Crews will remain at the scene throughout the morning damping down any remaining pockets of fire."

Firefighters from Kentish Town, Paddington, Euston, West Hampstead and other surrounding fire stations were sent to the blaze.

The zoo, in Regent's Park in the north-west of the capital, is usually open every day except Christmas Day. It is not yet known if it will reopen for Christmas Eve.

The attraction houses 20,166 animals, according to its inventory for 2017. It is the world's oldest scientific zoo, dating back to 1826.

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