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Acton fire: Revellers tell of 'miracle' escape from New Year Aeronaut pub blaze

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 3/01/2017 Sophia Sleigh

Party-goers have spoken of their “miracle” escape after an arts venue was engulfed by flames just 30 minutes into the New Year.

The Aeronaut pub in Acton was gutted by the blaze which apparently started at 12.30am after a candle was placed next to a Christmas tree.

Five police officers were taken to hospital after rescuing people trapped in the blaze, including a woman suffering an asthma attack and a man who sliced his hand in a “desperate attempt” to smash a window to escape. Some 340 customers and 12 staff fled the venue.

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Businessman Salah Al-Hidiq, from Dubai, was at the party with his wife when a man ran towards them yelling “fire, fire”.

Mr Al-Hidiq, 38, said: “There were people rushing trying to get out and the flames were in sight and spreading at an unbelievable rate. 

"Thanks to the staff, they quickly directed the people to get out from the back exit. It was shoulder to shoulder and you could feel the flames and heat.

"It’s a miracle no one got seriously injured.”

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Phil Hammond, 42, a travel consultant from Wimbledon, said: “The staff were great. It could have been a lot worse.” 

The club’s production manager Jackie Le, writing online, said she was one of eight people trapped on the roof before they were rescued by fellow staff members. “A few of us performers were stuck on the roof engulfed in flames unable to see or breathe and they managed to find us a way down.

"We managed to escape by going on the balcony and off the edge with a ladder,” she said.

Ten fire engines and 72 firefighters were called to the incident and crews remained on the scene yesterday damping down the building.

A spokesman for the pub said they were assessing the scale of the damage and pledged to reopen the venue as soon as possible.

He added: “We want to extend our best wishes to our customers whose evenings of celebration were cut short and who had to witness such a distressing scene.”

A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said the cause of the fire was under investigation.

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