LONDON — A fire has gutted a landmark Belfast building in a blaze that sent dark smoke billowing over the Northern Ireland capital.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service says it was called Tuesday morning to a blaze at the Bank Buildings, home to clothing retailer Primark.

Flames engulfed the roof of the structure, destroying the rooftop clock, before spreading through the five-story building.

Primark says shoppers and staff were evacuated safely, and police cordoned off the area as debris fell from the building.

The Bank Buildings date from the late 18th century, though the current structure was built around 1900. It was nearing the end of a major renovation.

Joan McCoy, president of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects, says it is "a sad day for Belfast."