Hawke's Bay woman Sonia Holland was among other New Zealanders enjoying the Olympic atmosphere at Kiwi House, near Kings Cross Station in London, when a barbecue exploded yesterday.
The former Woodford House pupil is living in England and has just finished the first of four years studying food science at Leeds University. She had gone to Kiwi House to meet friends and was sitting in the garden bar with her dinner of barbecued New Zealand lamb when the commotion started.
"I was fairly close to it when it happened," she said. "It became apparent that one of the gas canisters was alight."
She said as flames continued, bar staff moved her inside and then she was directed outside through a side entrance to an assembly area about 40m away.
When outside she had heard a loud explosion that sent a shock wave through the crowd.
"It was quite dramatic. I saw the explosion and felt the heat off it.
There was a lot of black smoke," Ms Holland said. She found sanctuary in an Irish pub and let her Hawke's Bay parents, Heather Bowmer and Clive Holland, know she was safe and sent a few photos to them of the fire.
Ms Holland said the evacuation was orderly with nobody panicking. Mr Holland said: "It's only just sinking in how lucky we are that there were no casualties. We could have been looking at a major national tragedy as the bar area was full of young Kiwis and many others."
Ms Holland's eyewitness account was relayed by Sky TV news in the UK.
She told Hawke's Bay Today she was pretty sure there were no casualties.
"As soon as the cooks realised what was going on they got security to evacuate everybody," she said.
Mr Holland said he had been keeping in touch with his daughter and her travels since she took a summer-holiday job working on ticketing at the Olympic head office in Canary Wharf and at other venues in London.
He said she had been enjoying her time working at the Olympics where she had seen some memorable sporting occasions, including white water kayaking at Lee Valley, Black Sticks hockey action and Usain Bolt win the 100m final.