London Zoo fire toll: 1 aardvark dead, 4 meerkats missing

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 23: Firefighters spray each other down before entering aan area to survey the damage after a fire destroyed a number of buildings at London Zoo on December 23, 2017 in London, England. London Fire Brigade have stated that no animals or people have been injured in the blaze, which began at around 06:00 near the Adventure cafe.

LONDON — London Zoo officials say a fire Saturday morning left one aardvark dead and four meerkats missing.

Staff members were treated for smoke inhalation and shock after the blaze broke out in the zoo cafe in the early morning hours.

More than 70 firefighters helped control the fire near an animal petting area and the meerkat enclosure. Officials say it is not clear what happened to the missing meerkats and it is possible others are missing as well.

Officials are checking the rest of the animal population and the zoo remained closed to the public on what had been expected to be a busy day at the popular facility in Regent’s Park.

TV footage from the scene showed the Adventure Cafe and shop to be badly damaged.

The fire started shortly after 6 a.m. Saturday, and staff members who live on the site immediately started moving animals to safety, officials said.

It took 72 firefighters just over three hours to put the fire out.

London Fire Brigade Station Manager Clive Robinson said firefighters will stay at the zoo to dampen any small pockets of fire.