A horror blaze on a private farm connected to the Malden Promenade Petting Zoo has killed more than 100 animals.
The heartbroken zoo manager described the scene of the raging fire as being 'like a horror film' as rare animals – including a giant tortoise and an armadillo – perished at a rescue farm.
The fire, which is believed to have started from an electrical fault, took place at a private barn in the Dengie Peninsula, Essex, rather than its sister zoo on Maldon Promenade, also in Essex.
Craig Williams, a director of the farm for rescues animals revealed how staff rushed out of bed past midnight on Monday to save 30 animals from the building as firefighters tackled the blaze.
Tragically, the fire claimed the lives of more than 100 of the 250 animals housed inside and outside the barn, which staff have described as an 'irreparable loss.'
The dead include a meerkat called George, a skunk called Severus and an armadillo called Hugo, who staff affectionately described as "our sun queen diva".
Williams, 41, said: "The barn looks like a scene from a horror movie. It's all gone. It's just an empty shell
"We get all our electricals tested every August. It's kicking ourselves over what could we have done differently but the firefighters said it was just an accident."
Williams said that the barn was completely gutted by the fire, which investigators said was sparked by an electrical fault on a freezer inside the building.
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Around 100 animals who survived the blaze have been moved into emergency accommodation.
A statement from Essex Fire & Rescue Service read: "Firefighters were called to a barn fire in the Dengie Peninsula during the early hours of [Monday] morning.
"On arrival, crews reported that a barn measuring 20 metres by 30 metres was 100% alight. Crews worked to extinguish the fire in sections by 12:15 pm.
"Sadly, a number of animals died at the incident. An investigation into the cause of the fire found that it started accidentally due to an electrical fault."
Staff are being offered group counselling and Williams said that he will meet members of the public to discuss the incident each afternoon this week.
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The farm's sister zoo at Maldon Promenade, which is normally open to the public and was unaffected by the fire, will remain closed until further notice to allow staff members to recover.
Willaims praised the support from the community, including a fundraising page that has raised more than £1,000 in less than a day.
He said: "The outpouring of love and support has been amazing. It was scary putting up the post on Facebook because customers have given us their pets and trusted us with them."
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