More than 30 firefighters have had to tackle a major fire at a bar in the Railway Street area of Armagh, amid initial fears there were people trapped inside.

The blaze at the Northern Bar was reported to emergency services just before 8am on Monday.

A Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service spokesperson said: “It was initially thought that there were people trapped within the premises.

“Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus quickly carried out a search of the building to confirm that no one was inside.

“The complex layout of the building, combined with floors that had been compromised due to the intensity of the fire, added significant challenges for firefighting operations.”

Fire crews had to work to keep the blaze from spreading to other buildings, finally bringing it under control and resolving the situation by 4pm.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but police suspect arson.

PSNI Inspector Gary Moore said: “Following an inspection of the premises, we believe that entry had been gained to the bar sometime in the early hours of this morning and the bar then ransacked and set alight.”

He added: “We are also investigating an incident at Mullacreevie Park, where a white Audi A6 car was set alight shortly before 5am.

“We are currently working to establish if both incidents are linked.

“Our enquiries are at an early stage and I would appeal to anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the Railway Street area, or at Mullacreevie Park, to contact officers in Armagh on 101.”

It comes after a separate arson attack on a pub in Bushmills, Co Antrim.