Canterbury city centre closed as fire and 'package' investigated

Canterbury closure (picture by Alex Gibson and Frederick Gower)
Image caption The bus station in Canterbury was evacuated (picture by Alex Gibson and Frederick Gower)

Trains have been halted and areas of Canterbury city centre evacuated while police investigate a suspect package and a fire they believe may be linked.

Emergency services were alerted at 16:21 BST to a suspicious package near the railway in Old Dover Road. Army bomb disposal experts are at the scene.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service was called to a fire at Marks and Spencer in St George's Street at 17:10 BST.

Staff discovered the fire in the baby changing area on the second floor.

The fire, which is being treated as suspicious, was quickly put out and the store evacuated.

The cause is being investigated.

No injuries

"Kent Police and our partners are dealing with a serious incident which I appreciate is causing some disruption to local residents," said Det Chief Supt Chris Hogben.

"I'm grateful for the co-operation that the people of Canterbury have shown so far and I ask that they bear with us as we continue to deal with the two incidents.

"At the moment we cannot formally connect the two incidents."

Image caption Shopping areas of the city centre were cleared (picture by Alex Gibson and Frederick Gower)

There have been no reports of injuries in either incident.

St George's Street has been closed and Whitefriars shopping centre, the bus station, Rose Square and the Marlowe Arcade have been evacuated.

Old Dover Road is closed between Raymond Avenue and Puckle Lane and homes near the railway bridge have also been evacuated.

Police are advising pedestrians to avoid the city centre and drivers to find alternative routes.

Southeastern said all railway lines between Canterbury East and Dover Priory were blocked.

Services were disrupted and a replacement bus service was running. HS1 services from Faversham were calling at Teynham and Newington.

British Transport Police said no passengers or rail staff were in any danger.

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