All flights have been suspended at Luton airport after a fire caused one of its multi-storey car parks to partially collapse.
At least 140 flights due to take off or land have been cancelled since the blaze started shortly before 9pm on Tuesday.
Firefighters worked through the night and into the early hours of Wednesday to extinguish the blaze. Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said at 9am that its crews were “monitoring the smouldering remains”.
It received a call about a car fire on level three of Terminal Car Park 2 at 8.47pm, and 15 fire appliances and more than 100 firefighters were deployed.
Four firefighters and a member of airport staff were taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation and another firefighter was treated at the scene.
What caused the car park fire?
The cause of the fire is being investigated, but Andrew Hopkinson, chief fire officer for Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said there is “no intelligence to suggest it’s anything other than an accidental fire that started in one of the vehicles”.
He added: “On arrival my officers were faced with a severe and rapidly spreading fire involving a large number of vehicles that ultimately spread to multiple floors and involved a partial collapse of the car park.”
He said it was declared a major incident at 9.38pm, and that up to 1,500 vehicles were inside the car park at the time of the fire.
Russell Taylor, 41, an account director from Kinross in Scotland, saw the flames after flying in to Luton from Edinburgh.
“There were a couple of fire engines with a car ablaze on the upper floor of the car park at just after 9pm,” he said.
“A few minutes later most of the upper floor was alight, car alarms were going off with loud explosions from cars going up in flames. The speed in which the fire took hold was incredible.”
Are flights suspended today?
All flights from Luton have been suspended until 3pm, affecting around 50 departures.
Flights into the airport have either been suspended or rerouted, with 17 already diverted to airports as far away as Cardiff, Liverpool and Manchester.
The main airlines affected are easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air.
In a statement issued on social media shortly after 7am, Luton airport said: “Our priority remains supporting the emergency services and the safety of our passengers and staff. Therefore, we have now taken the decision to suspend all flights until 3pm on Wednesday 11 October.
“Passengers are advised not to travel to the airport at this time, as access remains severely restricted.”
Access to the airport from the Luton Direct Air-Rail Transit (Dart) has been closed, leaving passengers stuck at mainline railway station Luton Airport Parkway.
Can people claim compensation?
Luton has advised passengers to contact their airline directly regarding their flights. You can check the status of your flight on the operator’s website.
As the fire was not the fault of the airlines, passengers are not eligible to claim compensation in the event of a cancellation.
However, by law you have the choice of either getting a refund or an alternative flight.
Passengers should also be offered the chance to be rerouted at the earliest opportunity if their flight is cancelled, which can be on an alternative airline.
You should also be awarded reasonable costs for care, such as food, drink, phone calls, and accommodation if your flight is delayed overnight or a replacement flight is offered the following day.
You should be refunded within seven days for cancelled flights if you do not take the alternative flight option.
If passengers are delayed for more than five hours and no longer wish to travel they are entitled to a refund even if their flight is not cancelled.