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Huge fire at Whitstable Harbour

Fire crews have been tackling a huge blaze at a cockle shed at Whitstable Harbour.

Smoke and flames were seen pouring from the building next to the town's fish market before the roof collapsed.

Fire crews tackle huge fire at Whitstable Harbour. Video: Mary Whelan

Ten fire engines and a height vehicle were at the scene, with dozens of firefighters using hoses to douse the blaze.

Crews worked hard to prevent the flames from spreading to neighbouring businesses, including Whitstable Fish Market, The Crab and Winkle restaurant and the newly-opened South Quay Shed.

Smoke was billowing into the sky and could be seen for miles, with plumes visible from Tankerton.

It is understood that as of about 7pm the fire was out but crews remain at the scene. According to Kent County Council, what remains of the building is set to be demolished tomorrow.

Flames pouring from the building
Flames pouring from the building

As of 9pm, firefighters were continuing to damp down.

A fire service spokesman said: "Kent Fire and Rescue Service remains at the scene, however operations have been scaled back to three fire engines and crews are turning over and damping down.

"Firefighters will remain at the site overnight holding a watching brief to make sure the fire doesn't reignite.

"The cause of the fire hasn't yet been established, but a fire investigation will take place."

The blaze broke out at about 1.30pm and a large crowd gathered in the area after emergency services closed off part of Harbour Street.

The Harbour Street end of the building is totally burned out
The Harbour Street end of the building is totally burned out

Earlier, the fire service had urged people to avoid the area and advised those working and living nearby to keep their windows and doors closed.

A spokesman said at 3.45pm: "Ten fire engines and a height vehicle are in attendance, and crews are making steady progress, using hose reel jets and compressed air foam to tackle the fire."

There were fears for the new food and leisure complex, the South Quay Shed, which only opened on Monday.

Firefighters sprayed foam onto the building to prevent the flames from reaching it, and it is thought to have escaped damage.

Harbour Street was closed in both directions and Stagecoach bus services were diverted along Cromwell Road and unable to stop in the High Street.

Smoke and flames pouring from the building. Picture: Mary Whelan
Smoke and flames pouring from the building. Picture: Mary Whelan

A KCC highways official said traffic was being diverted from Harbour Street to High Street, Oxford Street, Cromwell Road and back onto Harbour Street.

They added: "KCC has been advised the building will be fully demolished tomorrow."

The council-run site will remain closed tomorrow while investigations are carried out.

Reporter Lydia Chantler-Hicks, who was at the scene at the height of the blaze this afternoon, said she could feel the heat from the flames from 100ft away.

"Crews are using jets of water but it doesn't seem to be having any effect," she said.

Dozens of firefighters are said to be at the scene. Picture: Mary Whelan
Dozens of firefighters are said to be at the scene. Picture: Mary Whelan

"It's a timber building and is burning so hot. Pieces of timber are falling down. Wind is blowing the fire in the direction of the South Quay Shed."

An onlooker told KentOnline: "There's massive amounts of smoke going up. It's really horrible."

Canterbury City Council says an investigation into the cause and damage has begun.

"There has been a serious fire on the south quay at Whitstable Harbour this afternoon," spokesman Rob Davies said.

"Kent Fire and Rescue crews were on the scene very quickly and we thank them for their work to tackle it. Everyone was evacuated safely from the affected buildings and there have been no injuries.

"Following initial checks we do not believe the new South Quay Shed development, which only opened on Monday, has been damaged. However, we will not be opening it tomorrow (Friday). Further updates will follow in due course.

"In the meantime, we ask people to stay away from the harbour."

Canterbury city councillor Clare Turnbull, who was at the scene, described the smoke as "awful".

She said: "There was really acrid, yellow billowing smoke coming out.

"The flames were blazing out of the shed and they started coming out of the roof of the restaurant above the fish market.

Cllr Clare Turnbull at the scene of the fire
Cllr Clare Turnbull at the scene of the fire
A digger is brought in to help
A digger is brought in to help

"The problem we've got is this gusty wind which is blowing the smoke and flames right across to the other buildings.

"There have been fire engines and police galore, it's really well organised with a quick response.

"One of the main fears is protecting the South Quay Shed that opened just the other day.

"People are worried about their businesses. And also we've got the Jubilee weekend coming up. It's awful timing but the main thing is no one is hurt."

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