Northern Ireland news

'People's livelihoods' under threat after blaze in Ballymena town centre

Fire fighters tackling a large blaze in Ballymena town centre. Picture by Darren Crawford, Pacemaker

 A large blaze at a furniture shop in Co Antrim last night has put at risk people's livelihoods, the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim has said.

The fire at Woodgreen Furniture on Broughshane Street in Ballymena town centre broke out at around 5pm.

The blaze quickly spread to five other shop units on the street.

Councillor Audrey Wales, Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, said her thoughts were with the traders whose premises were destroyed.

"These businesses are well established in Ballymena and I know the traders involved personally, as do many throughout the town.

"To see their livelihoods reduced to ruins is a devastating blow which will be felt throughout Ballymena and as a former retailer myself, I understand how devastating this will be.

"I know this community will rally round them in the days ahead as they work to pick up the pieces following this shocking incident."

Ronan McCann, president of Ballymena's chamber of commerce, said: "People's livelihoods are without doubt going to be affected.

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

A total of 58 firefighters worked to stop the blaze from spreading further. One was slightly injured, according to Mr McCann. 

Motorists were told to avoid Broughshane Street, William Street and Broadway Avenue in the town.

The fire service said in a statement: "On arrival at the incident, initial crews were confronted by a well-developed fire in the property. Crews from several surrounding stations attended.

"There are currently eight fire appliances, two high reach aerial appliances and a specialist command support unit, with a total of 58 firefighters on the fire ground and extensive firefighting operations are still ongoing."

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