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Police warn of asbestos risk following fire at derelict Northampton hospital

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Police in Northampton have warned local residents not to clear away any wind-blown debris from the fire that consumed the former St Crispin Psychiatric Hospital on Berrywood Road as it may contain deadly asbestos.

A huge blaze ripped through the derelict hospital on Wednesday 6 August.  At its height, more than 80 firefighters tackled the fire in the Victorian building which finally closed as a psychiatric unit in 1995.

People living nearby were evacuated from the area but were later allowed to return home. It is not yet known how the blaze began, although arson is suspected.

At the time of the fire, official advice was to keep windows and doors closed. Now that the fire has been extinguished, Northamptonshire police have said that windows and doors can be opened, but people should still be cautious and avoid touching any ash or other debris from the fire.

Parents especially are being asked to make sure their children avoid the new play area at St Crispin, which been closed as potentially lethal debris has fallen in this area too.    The local authority emergency planning team is organising for specialist cleaners to visit the affected areas and remove the debris as soon as possible.

Sarah Cunliffe, a solicitor based in Shoosmiths’s Northampton office at the Lakes, voices the concerns of all the firm’s staff:

We’ve been part of this community for almost 165 years and share the anxiety that many local residents must have about this.   The area around St Crispin in Berrywood Road is very built up with lots of housing, so hundreds of families could be affected.”

She adds:

“What makes this more worrying is the fact that asbestos-related diseases only develop several decades after the initial exposure. More frightening is the fact that it only takes one asbestos fibre to cause mesothelioma, a form of asbestos-induced cancer that is inevitably fatal.  We would urge that people heed the advice given by the authorities and leave any possible fire-related debris undisturbed until it can be dealt with properly.”

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