updated 2/7/2008 7:55:09 AM ET 2008-02-07T12:55:09

A fire tore through a first-floor store early Thursday, forcing occupants of a 34-story building to evacuate, firefighters and a witness said.

Nine people were taken to hospitals with smoke inhalation, and two more suffered other injuries, the Fire Department said.

The blaze was reported shortly after 5 a.m. and visible in a newsstand and stationery store on the Upper East Side, said Rusty Pacheco, a principal in Grace's Marketplace next door.

"The moment we heard the alarm next door and we saw the flames go up, we got out of the building because we didn't know what was going on," he said. His staff was not injured, but the specialty food store suffered some water damage, he said.

It was not clear how the fire started.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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