Firefighters are assessing the damage to a Belfast city centre hotel after a fire ripped through a popular rooftop bar on the premises.
The blaze centred around Babel rooftop bar, part of the Bullitt Hotel complex on Church Lane. The road around the hotel had been closed while several fire crews were deployed from across the city.
Pictures showed smoke billowing from the terrace and engulfing side streets with thick smoke before it was brought under control with aerial appliances used to pour water on it from above.
Read more:Belfast city centre road closures as firefighters tackle Babel blaze
One witness, who was evacuated from Babel earlier, told Belfast Live: “I had headed to the hotel bar just after work at around 4.30pm.
“At that stage there was already a haze in the city centre but soon there was an overwhelming smell of burning. We were evacuated soon after that. There was smoke pumping out of the top floor of the building.”
“Police were everywhere along with the ambulance and fire service so it all seemed to escalate pretty quickly but it seems like a very slick operation now.
“There are still people walking through Victoria Square but no traffic is moving in the area and there’s no sign of visible black smoke at the moment. I think the hotel residents are just wondering now what will happen next in terms of their stay.”
Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service reported at 8.30pm the fire was under control and at one point 60 personnel were engaged in bringing the incident under control.
In a tweet they said: “The response team at Church Lane included eight fire appliances, one aerial appliance, one specialist rescue Team, one command support unit and five officers – with approximately 60 personnel in total involved.”
In a statement, Babel confirmed all staff and residents had been evacuated and no injuries were reported.
They said: “We can confirm a fire has broken out at the hotel. Thankfully all guests and staff have been evacuated safely. Huge thanks to the emergency services for such a quick response. We are currently awaiting further details.”
Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster, described the fire as “devastating”.
He said: “We understand the emergency services are currently dealing with the blaze. Hospitality Ulster will do all we can to support the management and staff as the situation evolves.”
The PSNI confirmed the road is likely to remain closed for several hours and possibly into Wednesday.
A spokesman said: “Motorists are advised that Victoria Street, Belfast city centre, is currently closed due to a fire in the area and will remain closed for the next number of hours.
“Motorists are advised to make alternative travel arrangements and avoid the area at this time.
“The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service are currently in attendance.”
There was major disruption to traffic right across the city, Translink reported that public transport was severely hampered with several bus routes diverted.
Read more:In Photos: Firefighters tackle blaze at Bullitt hotel in Belfast city centre
Read more:Live updates as fire breaks out at Babel in Belfast city centre
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