Northern Ireland

Ballymena furniture shop fire 'could lead to job losses'

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Media captionFirefighters tackle Ballymena furniture shop blaze

A fire which damaged a number of businesses in Ballymena, could lead to job losses, the president of the town's chamber of commerce has said.

The blaze broke out at the Woodgreen furniture store on Broughshane Street at about 17:00 BST on Tuesday and spread to several other units.

Image caption The scene of the fire on Wednesday morning

Part of Broughshane Street remains closed on Wednesday.

Ronan McCann said: "People's livelihoods are without doubt going to be affected.

"It's devastating. The only positive is there were no fatalities," he added.

He said the local business community would help in any way they can. One firefighter has been slightly injured while tackling the blaze.

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Media captionWatch another angle of the Ballymena fire

Eyewitness Emma Hamilton had been shopping in Broughshane Street just minutes before the fire was spotted.

'Disintegrating roofs'

She filmed the flames from a car park on the roof of a nearby shopping centre.

"We could see a large plume of black smoke and straight away ran over to see what it was", she told BBC Radio Ulster.

Image caption Broughshane Street was closed overnight and remains closed

"We could see, over into Broughshane Street, two buildings heavily ablaze, with the roofs of the adjoining properties on either side starting to disintegrate, and flames coming through those as well."

Houston Bell, who works in Ballymena, was driving home when he spotted the blaze and stopped his car to film the incident on his mobile phone.

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Media captionShoppers walked "unaware" past early stages of Ballymena store fire (footage by Houston Bell)

He told BBC News NI that several shoppers walked past the shop just as the fire was taking hold, unaware of the flames above them.

Mr Bell said warnings were shouted at people on the street to get back from the shop front, and he described hearing the sound of breaking glass as he drove away from the scene.

An estate agent, whose premises was damaged in the blaze, has said that all its diaries and contact details for clients have been destroyed.

Writing on Facebook, Rainey & Gregg thanked "everyone for their kind words and offers of help".

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Image caption Broughshane Street was closed as firefighters tackle the blaze

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