Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Andover Ocado warehouse fire: Up to 400 jobs at risk

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Media captionVideo footage shows damage to Ocado's Andover distribution centre

Online food retailer Ocado is proposing to cut up to 400 jobs after a huge fire destroyed a distribution centre.

The automated warehouse in Andover, Hampshire, burned for four days in February.

Ocado has decided to rebuild the facility after a search for new premises was unsuccessful.

It said the posts - nearly half the workforce on the site - were at risk because the construction project would take at least two years.

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Media captionOcado warehouse fire: Flames and smoke seen from miles around

Nearby homes were evacuated during the fire because of fears a three-tonne cylinder of ammonia gas might explode.

Investigators said the cause was an electrical fault in a battery charging unit which caused a plastic lid on the top of a grocery-carrying robot to catch light.

In a statement Ocado said it hoped to re-employ Andover staff in the future.

A spokesperson said: "In light of the fact that the rebuild of Andover CFC will take at least two years to complete, it is with immense regret that we have commenced a formal consultation process."

Image copyright HFRS
Image caption The distribution centre fire lasted for four days

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The union Usdaw said up to 400 staff were at risk of redundancy.

National Officer Daniel Adams said: "Clearly the staff are devastated by this development, particularly as they have spent the last three months helping to keep the business going."

More than 30,000 orders - 10% of Ocado's capacity - were processed by robots at the Andover warehouse each week.

The company said it had since introduced additional localised smoke detectors at its other centres, removed the plastic lid on its robots and added heat sensors.

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