From: Reuters
Published January 2, 2008 01:39 PM

Top London cancer hospital evacuated after fire

By Andrew Hough

LONDON (Reuters) - A fire tore through a leading cancer hospital in London on Wednesday, forcing a complete evacuation including some patients undergoing operations.

The top floor of the Royal Marsden Hospital in southwest London was gutted, and 79 inpatients and dozens more outpatients were taken to neighboring hospitals and churches.

More than 800 staff, some still dressed in surgical scrubs, were also evacuated. Streets surrounding the hospital were shut to allow firefighters to tackle the blaze which sent clouds of dark smoke billowing over southwest London.

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Two firefighters and one patient were taken to another hospital suffering from smoke inhalation. No other patients were injured.

The hospital was founded in 1851 and was the first in the world dedicated to cancer treatment and research into the causes of cancer.

A London Fire Brigade spokesman described the blaze as "a very big and serious fire." Twenty five fire engines and 125 firefighters tackled the blaze.

Addressing reporters at the scene, the hospital's chief executive, Cally Palmer, said treatment of patients would suffer after the fire.

"The (operating) theatres and at least two wards are very badly affected," she said. "Certainly a large proportion of... our operating capacity has been compromised."

The hospital's medical director, Martin Gore, said two patients were evacuated mid-way through their operations while a third was moved just after their procedure.

"Some of the operations were partly interrupted but all patients are safe," he said.

(Additional reporting by Jeremy Lovell; Editing by Luke Baker and Robert Woodward)

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