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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 February 2008, 10:00 GMT
Blaze shuts famous market area
The Hawley Arms
The Hawley Arms was one of several premises damaged by the fire
Firefighters are continuing to hose down a huge fire which damaged Camden's famous market in north London, as investigators seach for its cause.

Police have lifted some cordons in residential streets erected when the blaze began early on Saturday evening.

But they have advised people to avoid the area as main streets could be closed for up to four days.

Storage buildings for the market and the Hawley Arms pub were severely damaged, but no injuries were reported.

Some 100 firefighters tackled the blaze, which began about 1920 GMT, and some are continuing to dampen down hotspots.

Although Camden Council set up an emergency shelter in a sports hall with 100 beds available, only six people, including three children, spent the night there after their homes were evacuated. About 20 others were given accommodation at hotels.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "Chalk Farm Road and parts of Camden High Street, as well as surrounding one-way streets, are expected to be closed for the next three or four days."

It's very sad. It's a well-known party area
Billy Reeves

The closures are to allow structural engineers to assess the damage to buildings, including the Hawley Arms, a popular Camden pub which is frequented by celebrities including singer Amy Winehouse.

Landlady Ruth Charles-Ridler said she was "devastated".

"Everyone I've spoken to is in complete shock."

The markets area is a major tourist attraction attracting up to 300,000 visitors each weekend to its six open-air and indoor markets and vibrant mix of bars, clubs, shops and restaurants.

London Fire Brigade station manager Guy Foster said there were no reports of any casualties, injuries or rescues.

"When firefighters arrived they found an intense fire and they have done incredibly well to get it under control so quickly.

Map of the scene of the fire

"The decision was taken to clear a large area around the fire because we believed there were propane gas canisters in some of the market stalls.

"The police had to carry out a large operation to clear what is a very busy area on a Saturday night and they have done an excellent job to enable us to fight the fire effectively."

Residents had also been evacuated from some houses and flats.

A spokeswoman for Camden Council said it would keep open a rest centre for evacuees at Talacre Sports Centre "as long as it is needed".

Evacuees are being advised to call the council's emergency line on 0207 974 4444 for the latest information on rehousing.

Train services suspended

Camden Council is also organising a meeting to help businesses affected by the fire on Sunday but have yet to confirm a time. Details will be posted on the council's website.

The meeting will be to provide advice, such as insurance and re-opening plans, to damaged businesses as well as those undamaged but within the cordon which remain closed, a spokeswoman said.

A firefighter up a ladder at the Hawley Arms pub

Train services passing through Camden Town on the North London line were suspended during the blaze, and the line remains partly closed due to scheduled engineering works on Sunday.

Network Rail said it would check if any damage was caused to the tracks by the fire.

Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, said: "Our thoughts are with those people affected by the fire in Camden Market - one of the most thriving markets in London and of enormous importance for the economy of the local area and beyond."

Conservative mayoral candidate Boris Johnson said: "This will come as a terrible blow to their livelihoods and the area generally. My thoughts are with the traders, local residents and the emergency services who are, as usual, performing brilliantly under pressure."

In pictures: Camden fire
09 Feb 08 |  In Pictures
Eyewitness accounts: Camden fire
09 Feb 08 |  England

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