Liverpool: 'Ball of fire' destroyed about 1,400 cars on New Year's Eve

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Fire from brazier. Wikimedia Commons

A huge fire raged through a parking garage in the northern English city of Liverpool and destroyed about 1,400 cars. No injuries were reported.

The blaze engulfed the Echo Arena car park in King's Dock on New Year's Eve, reportedly leaving hundreds of people stranded. The charred remains of vehicles were seen in the parking garage.

The Echo Arena has confirmed that all people and horses were safe. An emergency shelter has been set up for those not able to come home because their cars were ruined. Two dogs, which were believed to have been the only animals inside cars at the time of the blaze, were rescued.

The Liverpool International Horse Show was cancelled due to the fire. Horses that were stabled in the garage for performances were transferred for their safety inside the arena. 

'Like a ball of fire'

According to witnesses, vehicles appeared to explode every couple of seconds when the blaze was at its peak. They added that the fire appeared to have started in the engine of an older Land Rover. It spread quickly.

French show jumper Daniel Delsart was supposed to be competing in a show. He ended up helping evacuate some of the horses to keep them safe.

Witness Sue Wright, who had been attending the horse show with her husband, told the BBC News that flames were shooting out of the engine. "It looked like a ball of fire on the front of the car and it was producing a lot of smoke,” she added.

Jan Clarke from Australia was not able to go home. She instead spent the night at a centre with daughters Kaitlyn Bolton, 27, and Shelly, 22. Clarke said the first sign of the fire was smoke. She added they initially thought it was firecrackers.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue’s Dan Stephens said the flames spread very rapidly. He said a sprinkler system would have suppressed it.

Lesson learned

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson has noted the lessons to be learned. "If there's things we can do to make the car parks more safer then that is exactly what we will do," he said.

Those who needed temporary shelter headed to a reception centre at Lifestyles Gym, which was opened by the Liverpool City Council. Some people took advantage of lifts by fellow show-goers or locals while others were offered accommodation.