eventy firefighter were reported to battling a blaze at a mosque and community centre in south London on Saturday afternoon. Crews from fire stations across south London responded to the fire at the Baitul Futuh mosque in Morden, which was reported by a member of the public just after midday.
A London fire brigade spokesman said: “We have 10 fire engines and 70 firefighters there. The fire is affecting the building’s ground and first floors. It would be fair to say it is a large fire.”
Pictures shared on Twitter showed a column of black smoke billowing up from the fire in what is said to be western Europe’s largest mosque. Half of the building’s ground floor was on fire, along with a quarter of its first floor and roof, a London fire brigade spokeswoman said. By mid-evening on Saturday, the fire had damaged 50% of the ground floor, according to London Fire Brigade. Most of the damage is thought to have occurred at the front of the building, while the prayer area of the mosque is thought to be unaffected.
Roads have been closed around the area. One man has been taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation, according to a spokeswoman for the London ambulance service.
A fire station manager, Philip Morton, who is at the scene, said: “This is a large fire and our crews are working hard to minimise fire spread to other parts of the mosque. We are working closely with the local community to ensure our damage control operations take full regard of the religious significance of the building’s contents.”
The vast Baitul Futuh mosque complex, which covers 21,000 sq m, was completed in 2003 at a cost of about £5.5m. It is said to be able to accommodate 10,000 worshippers. The cause of the fire is not yet known.