Fire fighters in Glasgow are tackling a major blaze at Glasgow School of Art’s Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed building. The BBC is reporting that an eyewitness said the fire appeared to have started in the basement and was spotted around 12.30pm. Smoke can be seen billowing from the top floor of the historic building and the streets surrounding it have been cordoned off.

Glasgow School of Art tweeted at approximately 1.30pm: “Everyone safe and evacuated. On behalf of staff and students, thank you to all who have expressed concern over Twitter. Updates as they come.”

Austin Yuill, who works as a chef at the art school, told the BBC: “I’ve been moved two streets away from the Mackintosh building but before we left the place was completely ablaze all down the west side of the building. “I’m told it started in the basement and it’s worked its way all the way up through the five floors. As far as I know it started from a spark which has gone on to foam, expanding foam.”

He added that the building would have been busy at the time the fire started: “We’re working up to the end-of-year assessments, so all the students were installing their work today all over the Mackintosh building. There are a lot of very upset students here.”

Buildings nearby, including the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) on Sauchiehall Street, have been evacuated due to smoke and the proximity of the fire. The Mackintosh building, which opened in 1909, is A-listed and is internationally recognised as one of the Glasgow architect’s finest buildings.

Update at 4.45pm:

Stuart Robertson, director of the Glasgow-based Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, told the BBC: “I’m standing outside the building just now and there are flames still coming out of the library. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. It’s like losing a limb.

“The school is totally unique. It’s an art school but it’s also a work of art in itself. Lots of people have been walking round in tears, including students who will have lost all their work.”

A statement from Iain Connelly, president of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, said: “Scotland has seen the loss of an international treasure which reflects the genius of one of our greatest ever architects.

“The whole of the architectural profession in Scotland will, I am sure, join with me in sending out a message to the students and staff of the school and all those who have been associated with this building over the decades, a message of sorrow and commiseration at this terrible, terrible news. “It is too early to talk about what happens now, but the architectural profession in Scotland will do anything it can to help in any way.”

Statement from Muriel Gray

Muriel Gray, chair of the Glasgow School of Art board of trustees, released the following statement at around 5.45pm: “Today is a really black one for the GSA, but I cannot thank the fire brigade enough for the speed with which they came and their commitment to contain and extinguish the fire.

“Fortunately there have been no fatalities or injuries. “I am so proud of the staff and students and how everyone has pulled together. We are thankful to all the Glaswegians who turned up to comfort students and to friends from across the world for their messages of support.”