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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

One Aardvark dead and four meerkats missing after London Zoo blaze

More than 70 firefighters sent to tackle blaze near animal petting area

An aardvark named Misha has died and four meerkats are unaccounted for after a fire broke out at London’s historic ZSL zoo.

More than 70 firefighters were called to tackle the blaze, which started at approximately 6am on Saturday at the cafe. It spread to an adjacent gift shop.

The site of the fire is close to a number of animal enclosures, including a petting zoo and the penguin enclosure.

Duty staff that live on site at the zoo were on the scene immediately, and started moving animals to safety.

The staff are currently trying to assessing the situation in what a statement from the zoo called “difficult conditions”.

A 9-year-old aardvark named Misha has died. The zoo had previously posted about her celebrating her birthday three years ago.

The zoo said: "Sadly our vets have confirmed the death of our nine-year-old aardvark, Misha. There are also four meerkats unaccounted for at this stage, and we have limited access to site to confirm this.

"All other animals in the vicinity are being monitored closely by our vets, but early signs suggest they have not been affected. We will continue to monitor them over the coming days."

Staff were forced to smash through glass in an attempt to save meerkats and other animals. Four meerkats are unaccounted or.

It is not clear if any of the animals are injured or have suffered any harm.

A number of zoo staff have been treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and shock.

"We are all naturally devastated by this, but are immensely grateful to the fire brigade, who reacted quickly to the situation to bring the fire under control," said a zoo spokesperson.

The London Fire Brigade were on the scene within minutes and the fire was brought under control by 9:16am.

"The fire at @zsllondonzoo is now under control but crews will remain on the scene throughout the morning damping down the fire which has affected a cafe and a shop," the fire brigade said on Twitter.

Ten fire engines were sent to the zoo, located in Regent's Park in central London. The fire brigade had earlier said that about three-quarters of the Adventure Cafe and a gift shop were alight. Huge plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the scene. The cause of the fire was not yet known.

An investigation will begin to determine the cause of the incident.

The zoo will remain closed until further notice and refunds are available.

A spokesman for the zoo said, “We are immensely grateful to the fire brigade, who reacted quickly to the situation to bring the fire under control”.

The added "It’s too soon to speculate on the cause of the fire but we will be working very closely with fire investigators over the coming days and weeks to ascertain the cause. The Zoo will be closed for the day and fire crews will remain on site for some time damping down".

The zoo has been running a number of Christmas events during the festive season, including a meet the Santa experience.

Animal lovers took to Twitter to share their concern for the situation.

@SmEllie_Davies, who describes herself as a 19-year-old Zoology student at Bangor university wrote “One of the aardvarks is unaccounted for at London Zoo. Distressed is an understatement.”

The attraction is the world's oldest scientific zoo and dates back to 1826. According to its 2017 inventory more than 20,000 call it their home.

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