SEVEN cars have been destroyed in a blaze at Lakeside which saw thick plumes of smoke tower over the shopping centre. 

Crews were called to a car fire on the ground floor of a multi-storey car park in Lakeside Shopping Centre, Grays today.

A car caught fire in the car park but the driver and his family walked to safety.

At 1.40pm firefighters confirmed that nine cars had been affected and the fire had been extinguished. Later, crews said the car park had suffered smoke and fire damage and seven cars had been destroyed. 

Watch Manager Mark Hampton said: "The fire started when a moving car began producing smoke and caught alight. 

"Thankfully the driver and his family evacuated the area quickly as the fire began to spread to nearby cars.

"When our crews arrived there were about nine cars affected by the fire and our firefighters did a great job of stopping the fire spreading any further."

One man at the scene suffered from smoke inhalation.