Fire destroys hundreds of vehicles in Liverpool multi-storey car park
Hundreds of cars have been destroyed after fire tore through a 1,600-capacity multi-storey car park next to the Echo Arena in Liverpool.
Witnesses described grabbing possessions and running for their lives after the blaze broke out in an old Land Rover and rapidly spread to nearby vehicles.
Cars were heard exploding "every few seconds" as firefighters battled to bring the inferno under control into the early hours of New Year's Day.
The Liverpool International Horse Show on New Year's Eve was cancelled and horses which had been on the first level were moved to the arena.
Sue Wright, wife of former England footballer Mark, said she witnessed the start of the blaze and said it was sparked by an engine fire in the 4x4.
She told the Mail Online: "It was an old car that exploded as we were leaving the building. We were in our minibus and one of the kids shouted, 'there's a fire!'"
She added: "We've lost everything because our car was right next to the car that exploded. My handbag was in it, our cards, cash, everything. We just grabbed the keys and ran."
Mrs Wright said the cars were "just popping every couple of seconds".
Kevin Booth, 44, from Manchester, left his six-month-old Fiat 500 X in the Echo Arena car park as he took his wife Julie and 16-year-old daughter Holly to see the horse show as a treat.
"The flames and the smoke was unbelievable" Mr Booth said.
"People were saying that they would just wait and get their cars back. I thought, 'Have you seen the fire? Are you joking?'
"It was frightening, we could hear the bangs of car windows exploding."
Kerry Matthews, 54, a warehouseman, and partner Patricia Heath, 55, an administrator, both from Wrexham, North Wales, were visiting Liverpool for the night to celebrate the new year.
He said: "A fireman said the whole car park is on fire. He said, 'What level is your car on?' We said six.
"He said, 'Well you best go and have a couple of drinks to celebrate new year because you're not going to get your car back'."
Merseyside Police said initial investigations indicated that an "accidental fire within a vehicle caused other cars to ignite".
"We believe that all vehicles parked in the car park have been destroyed and advise owners to contact their insurance companies," the force said.
No-one has been seriously injured, it added.
According to Liverpool's mayor Joe Anderson the blaze started in a Land Rover on the third level of the car park.
Firefighters worked into the night trying to control the blaze that began on Sunday afternoon.
Crews were first called at 4.42pm and were on scene eight minutes later.
The area was evacuated along with some apartments nearby due to smoke billowing from the blaze.
Police advised members of the public to stay away from the area and traffic restrictions are currently in place.
A spokeswoman for the Echo Arena said: "We regret to announce that the Liverpool International Horse Show has been cancelled tonight due to a serious fire in the multi-storey car park on site.
"All people and horses are safe and secure."
The four-day event was due to finish with Sunday evening's show where around 4,000 people were expected.