Demolition begins at fire-hit Oldham mill

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Media captionA former cotton mill in Oldham, Greater Manchester is consumed by 200ft-high flames

Demolition work has started on a former cotton mill destroyed by fire.

About 40 firefighters continue to tackle pockets of fire inside Maple Mill in Oldham. The blaze began early on Thursday and has been alight for about 30 hours.

Residents from Cardwell Street are unable to return home due to the "unsafe structure" of the building.

The demolition process could take about three days, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) said.

The Honeywell Centre in Hadfield Crescent remains open for residents.

A full investigation into the fire, which started on the upper floor, will begin once the building has been made safe.

Image copyright GMFRS
Image caption There was still a lot of smoke coming from the smouldering mill

A total of 80 firefighters battled for seven hours to bring the huge blaze under control on Thursday.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue warned people not to come to the Cardwell Street mill to watch the demolition.

Group manager Ben Levy said: "Having people come to watch the demolition process wouldn't be helpful to crews.

"And so if your intention is to come to the area for this reason - we urge you to stay away."

Local residents are still being advised to keep their doors and windows closed.

Meanwhile, the mill owner has claimed he warned police and the council about travellers at the site.

Vance Miller, 51, alleges they were charging people to dump illegal tyres and asbestos there.

The kitchen businessman insists the blaze would "never had happened" if the travellers had been evicted.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The former cotton mill before the huge fire struck

Mr Miller, who is wanted for questioning over fraud charges, said he was speaking to the BBC from China.

Image caption Mr Miller spoke to the BBC from China

The businessman, who was the subject of a failed Trading Standards prosecution in 2010, claims he told police the travellers had "dismantled" the mill.

He said: "Once they had stripped everything and there was nothing left to strip they then started charging people to dump illegal asbestos and illegal tyres.

"I phoned environmental health services in Oldham and said, look, they were dumping asbestos and tyres there, but they didn't want to know.

"They said: 'We'll nip down there and take a look'. What did they do? Nothing.

Image copyright Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service
Image caption The blaze was still burning seven hours after it first started

"If the council had done as I'd asked it wouldn't have happened. If the police had done as I'd asked it wouldn't have happened."

Oldham Council has said it received reports of caravans at the mill in September and reported concerns to the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.

Jean Stretton, Oldham Council leader, said: "As the site is privately owned we contacted the owners' solicitors to advise them and remind them of their legal obligations to keep the building and site safe."

Greater Manchester Police is investigating.

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