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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 June, 2003, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Disruption continues after fire
The site of the fire being cleared
The building next to the fire survived
A fire which destroyed flats and shops is continuing to cause disruption to the centre of Hackney in east London.

Twenty people escaped when fire broke out in a block of shops and homes in Amhurst Road at about 0300 BST on Wednesday.

At the height of the fire, 60 firefighters were at the scene and it was not put out until later in the afternoon.

Amhurst Road is likely to be shut until 18 June and Hackney Central rail station is also still closed.

'Something exploded'

The remains of the building became unsafe and began collapsing into the road.

Construction equipment is being used to demolish it and make the area safe.

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

The furniture shop was owned by three brothers until 18-months ago and was well known in the area.

A local shop worker told BBC News Online that the brothers, whose surname is Gibbons, came to watch the building burn.

Cafer Havuz, 21, who lives in the area said heard something explode at around 0200 BST.

Hackney fire
A London Fire Brigade picture shows the ferocity of the fire
He said: "I came out and there were all flames coming out of the building.

"There were lots of people and they looked very scared."

Graham Nicholls, 27, who lives in a road next to the flats told BBC News Online he was woken at around 0400 BST.

He said: "I woke up with smoke in my bedroom so I went and looked around - I thought it was our house that was on fire.

"Then I looked out the window and saw the flames."

Firefighters sprayed buildings next to the fire with water to stop it spreading.

Buildings on either side survived.

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




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



SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Hackney fire
12 Jun 03  |  Photo Gallery


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