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Staff being given 'support and information' after fire completely destroys Belfast Primark store

The area surrounding the building remains cordoned off this evening.

Updated Aug 29th 2018, 5:55 PM

Belfast fireSource: Liam McBurney/PA Images

PRIMARK HAS SAID it will meet with staff members of its flagship Belfast store over the coming days to provide them with "support and information" after a major fire broke out in the building yesterday. 

Usdaw trade union, which represents members in the retail sector, has said that staff at the store will be paid up until the end of the week. 

The fire broke out on the top floor of the landmark Bank Building at around 11am yesterday, and quickly engulfed the whole building. 

Emergency services rushed to the scene, and more than 100 firefighters fought the blaze as dozens of onlookers viewed from behind a cordon.
Belfast fireSource: Liam McBurney/PA Images

In a statement this afternoon, Usdaw area organiser Michala Lafferty said that its members are "extremely distressed and concerned as they now enter a period of uncertainty". 

"I have been in regular contact with [the] company to offer them our full help and support," she said. 

Today, we had a constructive meeting where the company confirmed all staff will be paid up until the end of the week. Over the coming days, further discussions will take place to agree what happens next week. 

"The company has reassured me that the welfare and job security of the staff is their priority." 

A spokesperson for Primark said in a statement that the welfare of its colleagues "remains our most important concern". 

"We are fully committed to supporting them during this difficult time," the spokesperson said. 

"Our management team in Belfast are meeting their colleagues over the next few days to provide them with the necessary support and information." 

It added that it is working with the authorities to determine the cause of the fire. 

Closed off

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) said earlier today that firefighting operations will continue throughout the day. 

There was a structural collapse within the building this morning and a 45-metre exclusion zone remains in place, the NIFRS said. 

Operations are expected to be scaled back to three fire appliances later this evening, it said on Twitter. 
https://twitter.com/NIFRSOFFICIAL/status/1034833361880137728

Concerns over structural integrity

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, NIFRS group commander Alan O'Neill said that the concerns about the structural integrity of the gutted Primark meant that the area remained cordoned off this morning. 

"There are questions around the structure," he said. "The internal floors have more or less collapsed throughout the building."

Belfast fireSource: Liam McBurney/PA Images
O'Neill said that as well as getting the fire under control, the top priority for fire service personnel was to prevent the fire spreading to nearby buildings. 

He said: "It did spread very quickly. Thankfully everybody got out of the building safely, and thankfully we were able to contain it.

We would have made every effort to contain it to the top floor. But we made sure it didn't spread to surrounding buildings.

Belfast fireSource: Liam McBurney/PA Images
The group commander said there was nothing at this stage to suggest that the cause of the fire was suspicious, but emphasised the main priority at this stage was ensuring public safety.

"This is certainly the most extensive fire I would have dealt with, going back 10 or 15 years," O'Neill added. "Thankfully our crews are well trained to deal with this."
Belfast fireSource: Liam McBurney/PA Images
Also speaking on Morning Ireland, the Lord Mayor of Belfast Deirdre Hargey said she was just back from the site of the fire describing the scene as "devastation". 

"Our priority is focused on relocating those 36o members of staff into alternative stores and trying to get the surrounding area back up and functioning again. 

"There are three surrounding Primark stores in the wider Belfast area and we are hopeful that we will get a sizeable number of those relocated," she said. 

With reporting from Adam Daly and Hayley Halpin

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