Published: 08:44, 26 February 2020
| Updated: 14:38, 26 February 2020
A floating restaurant on the River Medway went up in flames this morning.
Firefighters have been tackling the blaze at Embankments Floating Bar and Grill Restaurant in the centre of Maidstone.
Footage from the scene
At its height, seven fire engines were at the scene but crews have now left.
One lane was closed on the A229 Bishops Way heading in to the Maidstone bridge system for several hours but has now reopened.
The cause of the fire is not yet known.
A number of sources have said they saw people working on the boat yesterday, however it is understood there were no people in the building when it caught alight, and the fire service has confirmed there are no casualties.
Owners of nearby properties were told to keep their windows and doors closed but this advice has now been lifted.
Kent Highways also warned to expect smoke, approach with caution and expect delays.
All inquests which were due to take place at Archbishops Palace, which is also on the riverside, have now been moved to County Hall. There were no registrations - which includes weddings - booked at the palace today.
Witness Beverly Javier said: "The fire service is here - there are lots of fire service vehicles and thick smoke is blowing over the road. We are right by the Maidstone Carriage Museum."
Emma Harrison, who was also at the scene, said: "I heard from my mum that there were lots of fire engines down here and we could see the smoke from Week Street.
"It's been gutted - it's just really sad."
Student, Taylor Mcauliffe, added: "I was on the way to college and saw it on Snapchat so thought we'd come and have a look.
"It's actually madness, you wouldn't think this would happen - it's just crazy. I walk past it every day, I was going to go for dinner there but it's just gone now."
Another witness said: "There is a huge amount of black smoke. I thought it would be too wet to burn after the floods. I hope no one was hurt."
The flames have now mostly been extinguished, leaving just the shell of the floating structure.
The incident comes after the barge was hit by flooding over Christmas.
The accident left the vessel listing to starboard and from fore (the front of the ship), to aft (the back of the ship), which meant the owners had to cancel their New Year's Eve event.
The venue first opened in 2009 as the Barge, sitting just behind the Archbishop's Palace, and claimed to be the only permanently-moored floating venue in Kent.
Converted from a six-berth motor sailing barge brought back from the south of France, it has since hosted various music events alongside its tapas and drinks menu.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service said: "We responded to reports of a commercial boat alight on the River Medway, in Maidstone.
"There were no reported casualties and the cause of the blaze is not yet known.
Officer-in-charge, station manager, Lee Abel, said: "We would like to thank members of the public for their patience while we deal with the incident, and thank you to those who have kindly provided refreshments to the crew."
Maidstone Crown Court is still operating as usual.
More by this authorRebecca Tuffin