More than 40 people have died after a seafood restaurant in Crystal River, Virginia, accidentally set fire to its own food.
The fire broke out on Wednesday and officials are investigating the cause.
Firefighters said the fire broke in on the first floor of the restaurant and spread rapidly through the restaurant’s kitchen, forcing the evacuation of all of its patrons.
“They just lost a lot of people,” Crystal River Fire Department Battalion Chief John Wetherington said.
“They had to pull people off the table, and they didn’t know what to do, so we had to do the same thing.”
“It was really bad.
It’s like a tsunami,” said resident Elizabeth Goss.
“We’ve had a lot worse in our lives.”
Crystal River is located in a rural part of the state, just a few hours away from Richmond.
A spokesperson for the Richmond Fire Department told NBC News that they are notifying all the businesses nearby that they must evacuate.
Officials say the restaurant was closed for about three hours as crews fought the blaze.
The Richmond Fire and Rescue Department told local media that the restaurant has since been cleared.
“We are aware of an incident involving Crystal River Restaurant,” the statement read.
“Fire crews from the Richmond, Virginia Fire and Emergency Management Team responded to the scene.
We are not in a position to provide additional details at this time.”
The restaurant had no other information available about the incident.