Fears raised over damage caused by National Library fire

FEARS have been raised as to the extent of the damage caused by the fire which broke out earlier on the roof of the National Library of Wales.

The fire began on the back section of the roof close to Aberystwyth University’s Sports Centre at approximately 2:40pm. Up to 300 staff and 100 visitors inside the Library were immediately evacuated before extinguishing efforts began at 3:15. 

Whilst there have been no reports of injury from the scene, it has been suggested that a section around 100ft (30m) in size has been damaged, and many people have questioned what may have been damaged underneath.

Security informed onlookers that the fire started surrounding the office space located on the top floor of the Library, however a senior University source told Aber Student Media that the department responsible for the digitisation of manuscripts is located around the area where the fire broke out. Staff members at the University have expressed their concern for the possible loss of important and valuable materials. 

A disaster recovery company is being brought in as the extent of the damage caused by both the fire and the water used in extinguishing efforts is not known. However at 3pm, National Library staff began to enter the building in order to conduct a ‘salvage’ operation.

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service responded to the scene with a total of 11 crews (from Aberystwyth, Lampeter, Machynlleth, Tregaron, Llandysul and an incident command unit from Carmarthen  along with a number of ambulances and police units), who are continuing to fight the fire. Both the Fire and Rescue service, the National Library and the University have advised people to stay away if possible for their own safety.

Senior Library staff have said it is not known how the fire started, however a senior University source said they believed that the it may have been connected to work being done to repair the roof following storm damage in January 2012. Director of Public Services at the library, Arwel Jones, confirmed that workers were on the roof before the fire started but stated that it was not possible to say whether that was linked to the incident at the moment.

Aled Gruffydd Jones, current Pro-Vice Chancellor for Welsh Language and Culture, who will take over as Head Librarian in August, stated that “We need to know what happened and how. I’m puzzled by how it could’ve started. Clearly we need an inquiry.”

The library will be closed tomorrow and it has not yet been confirmed when it will reopen.

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