A helicopter crashed into a building site in a bustling quarter of central London about 8 a.m. Wednesday, igniting a massive blaze that claimed two lives and snarled rush-hour traffic in western Europe’s biggest city.

At least nine people were hospitalized with injuries.

Dramatic television images of the crash site held Britons in thrall, showing smoke pluming from the city's dense Vauxhall neighborhood.

Dozens of firefighters were dispatched to fight the flames, and by late morning the blaze appeared to be under control.

Scotland Yard said the helicopter apparently crashed after hitting a crane on top of a building.

A blaze ignites the scene shortly after a helicopter crashes in the Vauxhall area of central London after hitting a crane on top of a tower, according to eye witness reports. (Toby Scott, PA/Associated Press)

Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported that the pilot of the helicopter, who was en route from Red Hill Heliport in the southern quadrant of the city to the north London suburb of Elstree, had requested permission to land at a site not far from the crash site due to bad weather.

“I looked to the left-hand side and there were cars, three cars, on fire, people screaming, shouting and hollering, and the next thing I know there are police, ambulances and everything, everywhere and people going crazy,” Craig Dunne, who was heading to work at the time of the accident, told the BBC.

“It’s madness, absolute madness.”