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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 18:58 GMT 19:58 UK
Homes evacuated in flats fire
Building on fire
The building in Hackney was completely destroyed
Twenty people escaped unhurt when fire broke out in a block of shops and homes in east London.

Firecrews were called at about 0300 BST on Wednesday to the four-storey building in Amhurst Road, Hackney.

At its height 60 firefighters were at the scene and the centre of Hackney has been brought to a standstill.

The London Fire Brigade said the building had been completely destroyed and it will be knocked down over the next few days.

The block had a furniture store, cafe, clothing shop and two bars on the ground floor with the flats on the floors above.

At one stage firecrews had to withdraw from the building when a floor gave way.

Roads closed

Firefighters are still at the scene but it has now been brought under control.

Once the fire is completely out the building will have to be demolished.

Amhurst Road and surrounding roads will remain closed for several days.

The 12 bus routes that pass through the area have been are experiencing delays of up to an hour and that is expected to remain for a few days.

And Hackney Central station which was closed for all of Wednesday, is expected to open on Thursday afternoon.

The cause of the fire is being investigated by police and fire investigators.

BBC London's Mike Ramsden
"Hackney has lost an historic building"

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