British zoo fire prompts evacuation of visitors

December 15, 2018 - 9:48 am

LONDON (AP) — A fire broke out Saturday in an enclosure at one of Britain's largest zoos, forcing keepers to evacuate visitors and move animals away from the flames.

One person suffered from smoke inhalation and all of the animals were accounted for, authorities said.

Witnesses said the blaze broke out at about 1130 GMT (6:30 a.m. EST) in the Monsoon Forest habitat area, with winds fanning flames in the inflatable roof of the building. The zoo hasn't given a cause for the fire.

"We were very worried for the people and animals that would have been in the building," said David Clough, who lives across the road from the structure. "Orangutans and gibbons are our nearest neighbors there, but there are many other animals, including free-flying birds."

The zoo said in a statement that its teams were working "to bring the situation under control."

The zoo has described the Monsoon Forest exhibit as a chance to explore a tropical world filled with creatures ranging from small insects to crocodiles together with exotic plants of different shapes and sizes.

The zoo, which opened in 1931, has some 15,000 animals, CEO Mark Pilgrim wrote in a statement on the zoo's website. It cares for some 500 different species, about half of which are endangered and supports and conducts 70 conservation projects at home and abroad.

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