Foyle College: Fire at former school believed to be arson

image copyrightPSNI
image captionFlames engulf the former Foyle College building

A fire that extensively damaged a former school in Londonderry is believed to have been deliberate.

Firefighters were called to the blaze, at the former Foyle College site on the Northland Road, at about 03:30 BST on Saturday.

Police said the building had been "left gutted" and they believe it was arson.

Earlier they had warned those living close to the former site to keep windows and doors closed due to asbestos in the building.

However, the fire service said it was at a lower level than they feared.

"We're comfortable that there's no impact to the public around asbestos," Group Commander Alan O'Neill said.

The blaze was fully extinguished on Saturday morning.

image copyrightShauna Cusack
image captionMuch of the building was destroyed by the fire

Group Commander O'Neill said it was likely the fire was deliberate and there were some "structural" concerns about the building.

The building has lain empty since the school moved to its new site on the Limavady Road in the city's Waterside.

A fire at the site in April led to warnings about vandalism.

Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan said the fire started in the middle of the night.

"The school seems to be totally destroyed," she said.

"There has been ongoing vandalism at the school for the last number of nights.

"On Tuesday night, I had been contacted about anti-social behaviour at the site and the breaking of windows.

"We contacted the school on Wednesday and the board of governors to ask for an immediate meeting.

"The earliest we could arrange the meeting was the start of next week. In the meantime, I had asked, particularly over the nights and weekends, that the school stepped up security."

SDLP councillor Shauna Cusack told BBC News NI the site was "a magnet for anti-social activity".

"I'm just relieved that no one has been injured and none of the neighbouring properties were damaged," she added.

Police are appealing for information.

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