National Library of Wales fire damage repairs put at £5m

The damage to the roof A picture taken by the national library's photographer shows the damage caused to the roof space and the offices below

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The cost of repairs to the National Library of Wales after a fire gutted a section of roof last month is expected to be up to £5m.

Managers in Aberystwyth are in talks with insurance companies and the Welsh government over the bill.

It follows an investigation which found the fire was started accidentally by workers using a blowtorch.

Meanwhile, a list of items destroyed in the fire will be presented to the library's board of trustees next week.

Two workers had been carrying out repairs to a flat roof at the library when the blaze started on 26 April.

Start Quote

The estimate as it stands at the moment is £4m to £5m”

End Quote Arwel Jones The National Library of Wales' director of public services

The fire affected an area used as office space and for new acquisitions.

Pieces of the library's historic collection damaged by water used to fight the flames were moved to Oxford by a team of salvage experts following the blaze.

"The estimate as it stands at the moment is £4m to £5m. There will be questions asked of insurance companies, but we're talking to the (Welsh) government as well. Discussions are ongoing," said Arwel Jones, the library's director of public services.

The Welsh government's culture minister has already pledged to support the library at a "difficult period".

John Griffiths saw the fire damage during a recent visit where he also initiated talks on how the Welsh government could support the library.

The Welsh government said on Thursday it was waiting for details about the extent of the fire damage.

"We are aware that Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service has issued a statement regarding the fire at the National Library of Wales and its likely cause," said a Welsh government spokesperson.

"We are awaiting expert assessment of the extent of the damage to the National Library of Wales' building and collection items.

"This information is required before any financial responsibility can be confirmed. Welsh government officials are maintaining close contact with the library as it continues to manage and respond to this incident."

The National Library of Wales fire damage Water used to fight the flames at the library leaked through five or six floors

Water used to fight the flames leaked through five or six floors.

Books have had to be dried out - "hundreds, if not thousands", said the library.

Mr Jones added: "We're bringing together a list (of damaged items) and that will be finished for a week Friday when the library's board of trustees meet and they will be presented with the full list.

"The reason we're not going public with that at the moment is that we are keen to speak to all the people (around 20) that had any connection to those items personally."

Flames

Early reports from the scene said a section of roof was destroyed on what is known as Building Two, but the library has confirmed that in fact it is known as the Third Library Building Offices.

The investigation found the fire started on a flat roof there.

"Prior to the start of the fire two workers had been stripping the roof covering from the flat roof of the third library building offices using a scalping machine," said the fire service on Thursday.

"Shortly after 14:30 one worker was using the blowtorch to warm the roof covering on the edge of the third library building offices roof. The blowtorch caused the ignition of the wood behind the external cladding."

The fire service said the workers tried and failed to extinguish the blaze and it spread behind the external cladding "extremely quickly due to the dry nature of the material".

The library reopened to the public three days after the roof fire broke out.

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