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Huge fire under control at London's Camden Market

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: It took firefighters five hours to bring the blaze under control
  • Fire may have started in a market stall, fire brigade spokesman says
  • The market is a popular tourist attraction
  • Witness: It's one of the worst things to happen to the area in a long time
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A large fire tore through London's famed Camden Market Saturday night, sending huge flames and clouds of smoke above the city skyline and forcing evacuations, authorities said.

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Witnesses say firefighters had trouble containing the fire in the Camden Market area of London on Saturday.

It was "a very severe fire," said Nick Comery, a spokesman for the London Fire Brigade.

About 100 firefighters were called in to battle the inferno.

They finally managed to bring the blaze under control about five hours after it began, CNN's Alphonso Van Marsh reported. Video Watch a report from the scene »

"The flames are disappearing and rising up again," Casper De Lamare, who owns a vintage clothing store, told CNN.

He estimated the flames were 50 feet high at their peak. And the fire spread quickly, he said.

"The buildings here are so old, and a lot of wooden roofs."

He also noted the danger of gas canisters that are used to heat the outdoor stalls. Video Watch an I-Reporter's dramatic video of the fire »

Firefighters aimed 15 water jets on the blaze, surrounding it from three sides, and using three aerial pieces of equipment to attack it from above, said Guy Foster, another London Fire Brigade spokesman.

Residents of nearby premises were evacuated as a precaution. There was no one unaccounted for, Foster said.

A shelter was opened for displaced residents, with beds and food available, said a spokeswoman for the Camden Council.

A number of properties, including market stalls, were damaged, and authorities believe the blaze "apparently" started in one of the stalls, although its cause was not immediately known, he said.

Authorities cordoned off surrounding streets.

"The flames just keep rising and rising," said CNN producer Laura Perez Maestro when the fire broke out. "You can see the flames from a long distance away."

Video from the location showed flames and sparks shooting high into the air over the tops of buildings.

"Huge, billowing clouds" of smoke were rising from the fire, Van Marsh said.

The open-air Camden Market, near central London, is a popular tourist attraction that features more than 1,000 shops, stalls, food outlets and entertainment venues.

Earlier, pub owner A.D. Hill told CNN the area was crowded when the fire broke out. He said police officers showed up and evacuated the business, but he and a few others remained on the scene. Video Watch him describe the fire »

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"There's a river and a road in the way" between his pub and the fire, Hill said. "It's a big river. If it manages to leap to this side, we will leave. We're consoling our friends who just lost their businesses to it."

He called the fire "probably one of the worst things to happen to the area in a long, long time. Massive blaze." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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