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London Zoo reopens after fire that left aardvark and four meerkats dead

  • Video report by Charlotte Cross

London Zoo has reopened following a fire that left five animals, including the zoo's nine-year-old aardvark, Misha, dead.

The zoo opened on Sunday - just one day after the blaze - following advice with fire experts, as bosses vowed to review safety precautions to prevent future tragedies.

More than 70 firefighters were called to the Animal Adventure section shortly after 6am on Saturday, as flames took hold of a café before spreading to a nearby shop and enclosures.

It took them until 9.15am to get the fire under control.

Zoo staff are said to be 'devastated' by nine-year-old Misha's death Credit: London Zoo

ZSL, which runs the zoo, said staff who lived on site had managed to get most of the animals from the enclosures to safety.

Eight people had to be treated by paramedics for smoke inhalation.

Searches were carried out through the afternoon for the four meerkats - brothers named Robbie, Norman, Billy and Nigel who were all born at the zoo in 2011.

But by late afternoon, the zoo confirmed it believed they had died in the fire along with Misha.

Three meerkats seen at London Zoo Credit: London Zoo

ZSL director general Dominic Jermey said staff were distraught by the loss.

"I'm just absolutely devastated. This is a dreadful day for London Zoo," he said.

He confirmed that the aardvark and meerkat enclosures had been severely damaged in the blaze - but said vets had examined the other animals at the zoo and did not believe they had suffered any ill effects.

The zoo now faces questions over safety - and whether this tragedy could have been prevented.

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Mr Jermey said an emergency safety review had been carried out on site, and told ITV News that a full review would be done in time.

Clearly, we will want to understand the cause of this fire, and will want to learn from that.

This has been an awful incident for London Zoo.

It's something that none of us has experienced like this before, and none of us ever wants to see something like this happen again.

– Dominic Jermey, ZSL director general

In the meantime, the safety of the animals still at the zoo was his top priority, he added.

Firefighters quickly brought the blaze under control Credit: PA

David George, station manager for the London Fire Brigade, praised the work of the fire crews and zoo staff first on the scene for managing to get the majority of animals out of harm's way.

He said the scene had been "very distressing".

"On a personal level, I - as many of us do - enjoy going to the zoo, and animals in general," he said.

"It's distressing as it would be in any situation.

"We have visited this site on many occasions in the past to familiarise ourselves with it, which meant the local stations were able to attend and get it under control very quickly."

He said it was not yet known how the fire started, but said investigators would be working with the zoo in the coming days and weeks to try to find answers.

Smoke billows from the building. Credit: Twitter/London Fire Brigade