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120 firefighters tackle blaze at Mandarin Oriental hotel in London; no casualties

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A fire broke out at London's luxury Mandarin Oriental hotel on Wednesday, with dozens of firefighters deployed to tackle the blaze that pumped thick smoke high into the air.

[LONDON] A fire broke out at London's luxury Mandarin Oriental hotel on Wednesday, with dozens of firefighters deployed to tackle the blaze that pumped thick smoke high into the air.

The 12-storey hotel was evacuated and crowds quickly built up outside as around 120 firefighters and 20 fire engines tackled the blaze on the roof.

Singapore-listed Mandarin Oriental International said on Thursday before the Singapore market opened that the fire had been extinguished and there were no casualties. The extent of the damage was being assessed and insurers had been notified. The company will provide an update to shareholders in its interim results statement to be published at the end of July.

The five-star hotel completed what it called the "most extensive restoration in its 115-year history" only last week, after nearly two years of work.

With almost 200 rooms, the hotel is located near Harrods department store in Knightsbridge, an upmarket area of central London.

Firefighters were called to the blaze at 3.55pm (1455 GMT).

"The smoke from this large fire was very visible across central London," said fire brigade station manager Pam Oparaocha.

"Firefighters are working extremely hard to bring the fire under control. Crews wearing breathing apparatus are carrying out a search inside the building.

"Once the fire has been brought under control fire investigators will take over to establish how the blaze started."

A spokesman for the hotel said they would provide an update as soon as they could.

Roads were closed off near the hotel, an Edwardian-style building that opened its doors in 1902 and was bought by Mandarin Oriental in 1996.

Penelope Evans, 50, from Battersea in south London, was leaving Harrods when she noticed the blaze.

"I saw all this black smoke coming from the sky, it was covering everything and the smell was horrendous," she said.

"It was like people were in shock, everyone immediately just started leaving the street and the area."

Firefighters could be seen crowded on a fire escape outside the building.

There appeared to be no visible damage to the outside of the hotel.

Transport for London, which manages the city's public transport system, said an entrance to Knightsbridge Underground station had been closed "at the request of the emergency services".

The London Ambulance Service said had sent incident response officers and a hazardous area response team to the scene.

"We have not treated any patients but we remain at the scene as a precaution," it said.

Mandarin Oriental shares closed at US$2.49 on Wednesday on the Singapore Exchange.

AFP, with additional reporting by Kenneth Lim

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