Fire burns 5-star, 115-year-old hotel in London

Almost 100 firefighters called to huge blaze at five-star hotel in Knightsbridge

A terrifying fire at a London hotel exploded into a roaring social media bonanza.

The five-star hotel completed what it called the "most extensive restoration in its 115-year history" only last week, after almost two years of work.

Plumes of thick, black smoke were seen billowing into the air above Hyde Park, as traffic in the area was brought to a standstill.

London Fire Brigade said it was called to the 12-storey Mandarin Oriental Hotel just before 4pm (3am Thursday NZT).

Later, the authorities said they were still assessing the situation but thus far had no reports of injuries. The fire service said 36 guests also were evacuated. One witness said laborers had been working earlier on the roof of the 116-year-old hotel, which recently underwent extensive renovations.

A Mandarin Oriental spokesman said: "We are aware that there is a fire at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, and that the fire brigade is at the hotel".

The luxury hotel unveiled a £185 million refurbishment of its rooms and facilities just last week.

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The cause of the blaze was not yet known, it added.

It says 15 fire engines and 97 firefighters are at the scene. Crews wearing breathing apparatus are carrying out a search inside the building.

"I saw all this black smoke coming from the sky, it was covering everything and the smell was horrendous".

Surrounding roads have been closed while the emergency services respond to the incident.

Rooms at the exclusive Mandarin Oriental - which sits at the top of the exclusive shopping district and has views of Hyde Park - start at £600 per night.

The Queen hosted an event at the Mandarin Oriental for British and foreign royals ahead of the wedding of her grandson Prince William to Kate Middleton in 2011.

Parts of the busy Knightsbridge Underground station were also closed as a precaution.

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