Moment vehicle explodes before £20m multi-storey structure collapses – sparking travel chaos for up to 50,000 passengers with all flights cancelled until 3pm

This is the moment a vehicle explodes at London Luton Airport, before the huge inferno that caused a car park to collapse, sparking travel chaos for up to 50,000 passengers and leaving five people in hospital.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service spent some 12 hours battling the inferno at the airport’s £20m Terminal Car Park 2 after the multi-storey was engulfed by flames and caved in just before 9pm last night.

The blaze, which was finally controlled and extinguished just before 9am, started in a single vehicle with diesel engine, while MailOnline understands to be a Range Rover. As many as 1,500 cars are feared to have been damaged as a result of the collapse.

Dramatic footage, caught on a CCTV camera, captures the moment an explosion erupts in the car park, bringing light fixtures down from the ceiling, before a fireball soars through the building.

The car park, which can hold 1,900 vehicles, did not have sprinklers, which chief fire officer Andrew Hopkinson said ‘may have made a positive impact on this incident’ and has urged the airport to install them in existing and future car parks.

He added that the building’s open sides meant the fire will have spread ‘horizontally’ before it went up through the structure.

As many as 50,000 people are suffering disruption as a result, according to travel expert Simon Calder, with some 240 flights set to be cancelled up to 3pm at least, and crowds of holidaymakers stranded in Luton this morning, with no way of getting home.

Liz Blackmore, 57, had parked her £48,000 Mercedes on the top floor of the car park before heading off on holiday to Portugal.

She told MailOnline: ‘We were returning yesterday evening and then suddenly the captain of the plane told us that we were diverting to Gatwick due to a large fire that has closed the airport.

‘We’re devastated. It was less than a year old and my daughter has taken the other car so now we’re left with no car. We’re horrified.’

She added that she wasn’t sure yet whether she’d be able to get any money back.

‘This morning we heard people have been taken to hospital with smoke inhalation and injuries – we just hope they’re okay – you can replace the car but you can’t replace people.

‘It was confusing because we’re on our own – there was no help from anybody – we landed at nearly midnight and we had no assistance.

‘Also we didn’t know whether to go to Luton and pick up car – we didn’t know what to do – no one told us – we didn’t go because we’d seen the car park had collapsed so we didn’t bother going.’

Meanwhile, eight Polish passengers revealed how they been stranded for nine hours after their early morning flight from Luton Airport was cancelled.

Access to the Airport from the Luton Direct Air-Rail Transit has been closed, leaving passengers stuck at Luton Airport Parkway station.

One passenger is exercising at the station while his flight has been delayed for a ‘couple of hours’.

Nikodem Lesiak, 18, said he and seven other Polish university students are ‘tired’ as they have been stranded since 12 am after their 7:50 am flight to Krakow, Poland, was cancelled. The students have been in the UK for holiday for five days.

He said: ‘We are tired, and we have spent the whole night here. We need to get to Poland as fast as possible.

‘When we got here, we found out Luton is burning and everything is closed, and we were supposed to have our flight at 7:50 today but it was cancelled. We found another ticket to Poland from another city and then we have to take a coach to the city we live in.’

There next flight will be leaving at 12:40 pm, however Mr Lesiak said they are taking a ‘risk’ as their flight might again be cancelled.

Passengers and even airline staff frantically tried to book hotel rooms so that they’d have somewhere to sleep for the night, but with most at full capacity, many had to sleep in reception.

Holiday Inn, Marriott, Hilton and Best Western hotels in the area are all sold out for tonight.

The chaos has also seen a frantic dash for parking spaces, with nearly 2,000 now out of action as a result of the fire.

A check on Luton Airport’s website at about 9am today found there was no availability for parking on any of its official sites before Friday, October 27 – with a space at the Terminal 1 Car Park available for £138 for the week from that date.

The website, which had a wait time of eight minutes just to enter it this morning amid heightened demand, said the area is just a four-minute walk to the terminal, and is the closest car park to the terminal entrance.

The fire took place at the airport’s new Terminal Car Park 2 – and no spaces were listed on that site over the coming weeks and months, even when looking one year in advance.

Demand will now likely increase for rival operators such as Purple Parking and Airparks, for which the cheapest price available through both websites for a week from October 27 was £170 for a ‘meet-and-greet’ service.

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