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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 October, 2003, 14:09 GMT 15:09 UK
Fire destroys M62 services
Birch services
The damage will cost millions of pounds to fix
A motorway service station has been destroyed in a suspected arson attack.

The fire at the Moto Birch services on the westbound carriageway of the M62 between Junctions 18 and 19 in Greater Manchester has caused millions of pounds in damage.

The fire started at about 0130 BST on Thursday and more than 70 firefighters were tackling the blaze at its height.

Three men have been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent.

The men are aged 23, 29 and 30 years old and two of them are from Blackpool. They will be questioned later.

The shopping and restaurant areas of the services were completely destroyed in the fire.

Birch services
More than 70 firefighters battled the blaze
No-one was injured, but the Travelodge next to the services was evacuated as a precautionary measure.

Whilst the fire was burning, cars were also moved from nearby car parks and all of the petrol pumps at the service station were shut off.

An Australian tourist, who was staying at the Travelodge, said guests were confronted by thick smoke as they were led to safety.

She told the BBC: "We heard people yelling outside 'Fire!', I looked out the window and saw very thick smoke.

"So we came out and it was very thick, we couldn't see, it was getting in your eyes and in your throat and it had a toxic smell and feel to it."

Moto spokesman Andrew Leetham said: "All that's left are piles of charred, twisted, lumps of metal."

Motorway unaffected

He added temporary services would be put in place within the next few weeks and said millions of pounds of damage had been caused.

Two members of staff escaped from the fire. It is thought the staff members and the men who have been arrested were the only people in the station at the time.

A Greater Manchester Police spokeswoman said: "The services are now closed in both directions although the motorway itself is unaffected.

"Drivers should consider that the services are currently unavailable and make alternative arrangements for refuelling cars and having travel breaks."

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