Elephant and Castle fire mechanic tells of miraculous escape from 7m flames

AN Elephant and Castle mechanic who survived Monday's terrifying inferno has revealed his miraculous escape from seven-metre-high flames.

Black smoke was seen billowing above the capital for miles after a large fireball erupted under the major transport hub.

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The huge blaze erupted in South London at 1.43pm on Monday after a massive explosion under the Elephant and Castle train station.

Six people were treated at the scene of the blaze – one of whom is understood to have been a police officer, while another was taken to hospital.

A mechanic who works in the garage where the explosion took place told the Sun: “We all had to run out of the shop. I didn’t see how it started.

"There were six of us in the shop at the time.

"We left all our things in there and had to run. I could see flames about seven metres high.

“My phone is still in there and all my things.

“There are three cars in there now and other things that can explode so I don’t think we will be allowed back.”

Smoke inhalation

James Ryan, station commander for Shoreditch, said the fire is now under control. One person was treated for smoke inhalation and there are no reports of any other injuries.

He said: "We despatched 15 fire engines and around 100 firefighters to the address.

"There was a significant fire in a car garage in the railway arches, which also involved several cars outside the railway arches and a telephone box.

"The smoke that was created by that fire also affected the main overground station of Elephant and Castle, which was subsequently closed as a precaution.

"We had five people who were in the address at the time, who left before the arrival of London Fire Brigade.

"They've all been assessed, one person is being treated by London Ambulance Service for smoke inhalation, but there are no reports of any other injuries at this time."

Police urgently evacuated residents and businesses in the area.

Officers reportedly confirmed earlier that "dangerous chemicals" were involved in the blaze.

Thick plumes of black smoke could be seen filling the air above central London.

Travellers were urgently evacuated from the station after the blaze broke out.

Thivesh Veerasamy, 30, who lives directly opposite the railway arches with his wife, Cristina Giura, were among those cleared from residential buildings.

They watched in horror from their fourth-floor apartment as the flames blazed and huge plumes of smoke clouded their windows.

It took 15 minutes before the couple, and fellow residents, to be evacuated at 2pm – and they were not allowed back into their flat until shortly after 6.30pm.

Thivesh, an oil trader, said: "It was crazy. When the explosion happened, the flames cam right up and across to our apartment.

"But the fire alarm in our building wasn't working, and our exit is right out onto the main road in front of the garage, so we didn't know whether we could leave.

"The fire started just before 1.45pm, and we were eventually able to be evacuated at 2pm, out through a back door.

"Luckily, the fire didn't reach our apartment, so everything is fine inside, which we're very grateful for. But it was pretty scary to watch."

A passenger on the Tube travelling through Elephant and Castle station said the area was "hurriedly closed", and that it was a petrol station that had caught fire.

Dramatic pictures showed a heroic police officer rescuing two children from the fire after it broke out at the station.

The fire has caused disruption to Thameslink and Southeastern services.

Thameslink said all lines through Elephant and Castle are currently blocked due to the fire.

Services between St Albans and Sutton and London Blackfriars and Sevenoaks are affected.

Thameslink said in a tweet: "You will have to use an alternative route to complete your journey and you should allow plenty of extra time to complete your journey.

"To help keep you on the move, you can use your ticket on: London buses between London Blackfriars, Denmark Hill and Loughborough Junction, London Underground and Southeastern trains between London Victoria, Peckham Rye, Nunhead and London Bridge to Sevenoaks."

The Northern Line is not stopping at Elephant and Castle tube station as a result of the fire.

Officers have taped off Walworth Road, leading up to the station's entrance on Elephant Road, and closed the entrance to the Northern line.

One video shows the moment that a huge ball of fire exploded out of the side of the station.

Sara Scarpa, 25, lives in nearby apartment building Hurlock Heights and said smoke and the noise of the explosion had reached her window.

"We opened the window for a sec as you could hear people shouting, and we smelt something very very strong," she said.

"The smoke (was) dying down a little… we heard an explosion and now it started again."

A three-year-old tabby cat called Cat is still believed to be stuck inside the area where the fire broke out.

The cat's owner Adam Watts said: "The firemen are aware that he is still in there and I am hoping and praying he comes back out alive. I will wait here until they save him."

Dozens of firefighters and police officers remain at the scene.

Officers have taped off Walworth Road, leading up to the station's entrance on Elephant Road.

Police at the scene said the smoke was coming from the train station rather than the tube station.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan this afternoon gave thanks to the emergency services for their quick actions.

He said: "The fire is now under control. Two people, one police officer and one member of the public are being treated for smoke inhalation. I wish them and others affected a speedy recovery.

"I urge the public to avoid the area whilst our firefighters and emergency services continue their work in the area. There are significant road closures in place and the tube station is shut.

"If you live nearby, please follow the advice from London Fire Brigade and close all doors and windows."

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had earlier urged the public to avoid the Elephant and Castle area "until further update".

A LAS spokeswoman said: "We were called at 1.50pm today to reports of a fire near Elephant and Castle station.

"We sent a number of resources, including ambulance crews, incident response officers and our hazardous area response team.

"We treated six patients at the scene, and took one of them to hospital."

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the force was called at about 13.47pm "in response to a fire on Elephant Road, SE17.

"Officers and the London Ambulance Service are supporting London Fire Brigade at the scene.

"There are significant road closures in place and the public are advised to avoid the area.

"The station has been evacuated and residential evacuations are taking now place.

"At this early stage, the incident is not believed to be terror-related."

A spokesman for Elephant and Castle Town Centre, the private body overseeing a major regeneration project near to the fire, said: "We are aware of the serious incident at Elephant and Castle this afternoon, which we understand originated in a railway arch unit adjacent to, but not forming part of, our development site.

"As a precaution all of the residents in our Elephant Central building, Castle Square retailers and operatives on the development site have been evacuated and we will continue to support the emergency services and other first responders wherever possible."

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