A HELICOPTER has crashed in central London after hitting a crane on top of a tower block by the River Thames, killing two people.

The stricken aircraft cartwheeled to the ground and exploded into flames before crashing into a street during the rush hour.

Burning wreckage and aviation fuel covered the road as eyewitnesses reported seeing cars on fire and hearing people screaming.

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The Tower, St George Wharf, London, which the helicopter struck before crash

The Metropolitan Police confirmed that the helicopter had come down. London Fire Brigade said the crash happened near Wandsworth Road in South Lambeth.

Video footage shot on a mobile phone showed an entire road blocked by burning wreckage and aviation fuel.

The side of a building on one side of the street was also damaged by the flames. Passers-by stood watching as the wreckage burned. A motorcycle was also lying on its side in the road having been abandoned.

One eyewitness reported seeing cars on fire and hearing people screaming.

Visibility was apparently low with London City Airport in Docklands reporting delays. The top of the tower block was obscured by mist.

Paul Ferguson, who was working in an office near the incident, told BBC News: "There was a flash and the helicopter plunged to the ground.

It exploded and you can imagine the smoke coming out of it. It was probably heading from the nearby heliport.

It may be that on this misty morning the lights on nearby St George's Tower weren't on and it moved and clipped the edge of the crane and lost control."

A woman who answered the phone at the London Heliport, in Battersea, would not comment on the fire.