BOSSES at the UK's largest cider manufacturer reassured customers yesterday that a factory fire would not halt production.

Firefighters were called to HP Bulmer, in Hereford, shortly before 11.30pm on Thursday night and worked through the early hours of yesterday to bring the blaze under control.

A company spokesman said 50 of the 100 workers at the White Cross Road site were evacuated and no one was injured. The fire is thought to have started in a drying plant, where the apples are blasted with hot air before being pulped, and may have been the result of a mechanical fault.

The spokesman said the period between September and December was the busiest time of year, with the apple harvest, and that 90,000 tonnes of the fruit would be milled in that time.