Six people have been injured after an enormous fire broke out beneath Elephant and Castle train station on Monday.
Dramatic photographs flooded social media as the incident unfolded about 1.45pm. A massive plume of black smoke could be seen rising across the capital’s skyline.
Ten fire engines and 100 firefighters were on scene to tackle to blaze.
Of the six people treated at the scene by London Ambulance Service crew, one was taken to hospital.
Underneath the railway arches three commercial units, four cars and a telephone box had caught fire in the incident, London Fire Brigade confirmed.
Father of three Kiran Patel said he felt “lucky to be alive” and described a “massive boom” after an explosion at a garage just metres from where he was standing.
Mr Patel, 55, told the Standard: “There was a massive boom and then a wall of heat hit me like I have never experienced before. It was like someone had opened an oven in my face.
“Everybody was scattering running for their lives I thought I was going to die, I thought of my family. The police told us to run it was like something I would imagine out of a terrorist attack. I’m lucky to be alive, there was panic in people’s eyes.”
Mr Patel said emergency workers had told him the fire and explosion could have been triggered by a generator in the garage.
He added: “From what they were saying they were talking about the generator as a possible cause. It’s incredibly that it looks as if no one was killed. I will play those scenes back in my mind though.”
London Fire Brigade later announced the fire was under control but firefighters were remaining on the scene.
A statement said: “The fire in #elephantandcastle is now under control. Firefighters will remain at the scene for the next few hours to dampen down the scene. Road closures are still in place in the area.”
Fire investigators have been trawling for clues as to how the fire started in the charred remains of the garage.
A burned out white Mini was on the forecourt of the business which is under a railway arch.
One resident of the flat block next to the arch described how he and his neighbours were evacuated and sent to a makeshift centre for evacuees at the Southwark Playhouse.
He added: “There was smoke engulfing my building and then a blast. We were told to leave immediately by police. It was very scary. I saw it all unfold it was very dramatic. I don’t know when I’ll be allowed home.”
Another witness was on a building site nearby when smoked plumed into the air before an “explosion like a bomb” rocked the scaffolding he was working on.
The construction worker, 20, said: “There was a massive blast like a bomb going off, it rocked my scaffolding it it was terrifying. I thought it was a terrorist attack.”
Among the witnesses on Twitter, one wrote: “Lots of black smoke, then an explosion and large fireball erupted.
“I’m now engulfed in black smoke so can’t see any more.”
Earlier in the day, London Fire Brigade urged Londoners to avoid the area as emergency crews attended the scene.
They tweeted: “Ten fire engines and around 70 firefighters are attending a fire at railway arches near to #ElephantCastle railway station.
“Please avoid the area and close all doors and windows.”
They added: “Three commercial units underneath the railway arches are completely alight and four cars and a telephone box are also alight near #ElephantandCastle Railway Station.
“Road closures are in place and people are advised to avoid the area and keep windows and doors closed.”
Metropolitan Police said the incident was not terror related.
A Met spokesperson told The Evening Standard: “Police were called at approximately 13:47hrs in response to a fire on Elephant Road, SE17.
“Officers and the London Ambulance Service are supporting London Fire Brigade at the scene. There are significant road closures in place and the public are advised to avoid the area.
“The station has been evacuated and residential evacuations are taking now place. At this early stage, the incident is not believed to be terror related.”