Notre Dame fire: Westminster fears similar catastrophe

Remigio Civitarese
Aprile 17, 2019

The horrifying images of Notre Dame cathedral's smouldering ruins brought renewed warnings that the Houses of Parliament are in similar danger of being engulfed by flames.

London's iconic Houses of Parliament are at risk of a major fire as devastating as the one which ravaged Notre Dame in Paris, UK MPs have warned.

The Palace of Westminster is also undergoing major fix work, but experts caution that the work is proceeding too slowly, and every day the risk of fire grows greater. Labour MP Chris Bryant, who sat on a committee which reviewed the issue, said: "We have taken far too long already putting our fire safety measures in place". "Parts of the Palace are as old as Notre Dame and we must make sure that every fire precaution is taken as the major work goes ahead".

A restoration and renewal programme is not due to start until the mid-2020s. A joint committee report warned in 2016 that Parliament would be hit by a "catastrophic event, such as a major fire.in the next decade".

Another Labour MP, Anna Turley, was shocked by the state of the building when she was first elected in 2015.

"On my induction, my "buddy" was an engineer", she said. 'He showed me the electrics - it looked a health and safety disaster (and fire) waiting to happen'.

And the palace was destroyed in a fire in 1834 to be later rebuilt by architect Charles Barry. However, the interiors created with Augustus Pugin use huge amounts of flammable materials.

The nightmare scenario is that fire is ignited by water coming into contact with high-voltage electrical systems, which then rages through the warren of basement rooms, shafts and floor voids created to aid ventilation.

Fire safety teams constantly patrol the neo-gothic Palace of Westminster, which caught fire 40 times between 2008 and 2012 alone; the small fires were quickly put out by wardens. Tory Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said the leak was a reminder of the need to solve Parliament's problems.

Writing in the Bucks Free Press, the Aylesbury MP said: 'With each year that passes, the risk of a catastrophic fire grows'.

"We've been very lucky no one has been seriously injured". The building is made from limestone, but fears have been raised by a number of MPs over the electrical, plumbing, heating and sewerage systems contained within the structure.

The state of the building is very poor in Westminster and a fire risk is obviously huge with a building that has so much wood within it.

World leaders also shared their sadness at the demise of the cathedral. The difficulty with that is that ministers are also MPs, and have to divide their time between their departments and parliament.

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