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Fire severely damages Battersea Arts Centre in London

A major fire has destroyed a large section of roof at Battersea Arts Centre
A major fire has destroyed a large section of roof at Battersea Arts Centre, a leading independent theatre and arts venue in south London. The blaze also badly damaged two halls in the large Victorian building, which was under renovation.

However, there was a glimmer of hope in the early hours of Saturday morning as staff said that the front of the building had been spared.

The centre’s artistic director director, David Jubb said there was a possibility the undamaged portion could reopen on Saturday evening. “Brick by brick, we will bring that building back,” he said.

He said that no decision could be taken before lunch time on Saturday whether the centre might be able to partly reopen.

Speaking shortly after midnight on Saturday, Jubb paid tribute to the fire brigade and other emergency services, saying their efforts had been extraordinary.

“We know that the grand hall is down, so that is now gone but, brilliantly, the fire brigade have stopped the fire going into the front of the building. We cannot be sure yet, but we are going to try to open on Saturday,” he said.

The London Fire Brigade said it had sent 12 fire engines and about 80 firefighters to the Grade II* listed building, formerly Battersea town hall, after a call at about 4.15pm on Friday. People at the scene saw the blaze rage through the top of the building before the roof above the main hall collapsed.

The London ambulance service said it had treated one woman for smoke inhalation, but she did not need hospital treatment. The arts centre said all its staff had escaped unharmed.

The fire service said later the smoke seemed to be dissipating. A sickly smell remained in the air as hundreds of locals gathered on Lavender Hill and at other intersections to watch crews try to bring the blaze under control.

Joanna Webster, who lives next door, said she had been assured by fire crews her house was not in peril. Returning home to see the fire had been horrible, she said.

“It’s really sad, especially as they’ve been doing this redevelopment on it. It’s such a landmark.”

Rhiannon Kearns, another local, said: “It’s really a sad sight. I’ve grown up around here and used the centre a lot over the years. I was there just before Christmas for a show. Now it looks like they’re going to have to knock much of it down. I don’t see how they can bring it back from that state.”

The main part of the fire appeared to take hold in the roof above the main hall of the venue, part of which later collapsed. The centre is covered in scaffolding as part of a renovation project financed partly by donations from the public.

Original Source

The Guardian

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