Fire destroys luxury cars in Place Vendome, Paris's wealthiest square (PHOTOS)

A cloud of black smoke envelops the Place Vendôme column, on March 8, 2012 in Paris, after a fire - which appears to have started in the nearby Hotel Ritz underground parking lot - broke out.</p>

A cloud of black smoke envelops the Place Vendôme column, on March 8, 2012 in Paris, after a fire - which appears to have started in the nearby Hotel Ritz underground parking lot - broke out.

PARIS, France – The Place Vendome, Paris's wealthiest square, was evacuated late Thursday after a “spectacular fire” broke out in an underground parking garage, causing millions of dollars of damage, Le Parisien reported.

As many as 40 luxury cars were destroyed in the blaze, which started at 4.40pm local time, and sent thick smoke billowing across the French capital, along with the stench of burning rubber.

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Emergency vehicles including more than 100 fire engines and 30 ambulances rushed to the scene, London's Daily Mail reported, adding that there were fears for celebrities visiting the area as part of Paris Fashion Week.

Dozens of people were treated for smoke inhalation, along with one of 90 firefighters, and France's Justice Ministry was immediately closed.

The blaze was extinguished by 9pm, but Place Vendome – home to the grand Ritz Hotel and dozens of jewelry and designer clothing shops – remained cordoned off.

According to some unconfirmed witness accounts, the fire was started by petrol leaking from a Ferrari on the second floor of the parking lot.

The Parisien reported that the flames quickly spread to neighboring vehicles, causing an “impressive” blaze that “thankfully didn't cost any lives.”

The paper observed that waiting behind the police barricades throughout the evening were several agitated business executives, impatiently waiting to learn the fate of their vehicles.

Parisian authorities have opened an investigation to determine the cause of the fire.

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