Northern Ireland

Primark fire: 1,000 workers affected by cordon

Flames burn through the clock at the top of the Bank Buildings Image copyright PA
Image caption The fire started near the top of the Bank Buildings and quickly spread through the floors

About 1,000 people are employed by businesses which are unable to trade due to a cordon placed around Belfast city centre's former Primark store, it has been revealed.

A fire burned for three days at the retailer's flagship store in the Bank Buildings.

The figures were released on Thursday at a meeting between the businesses and Belfast City Council.

The safety cordon is expected to remain in place for at least four months.

Image caption The cordon is to remain in place for at least four months

Some 360 workers of the 1,000 workers are employed by Primark and they have been told they will be paid in the short term.

But more than 100 people working for a Tesco branch which is within the cordon area were called to a meeting on Thursday to hear news on their future.

The meeting was held at CastleCourt shopping centre - a short distance from the scene of the fire.

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Media captionDrone footage shows the extent of the destruction caused by the fire at the Bank Buildings

Zero-hour contracts

Some people appeared upset, but no one made comment as they left.

It is understood they were advised not to speak to the media.

The future for hundreds of others working for companies including McDonald's and Spar is unknown.

Many of the workers are thought to be employed on zero-hours contract, where they do not get paid if they do not work.

Other businesses which are based just outside the cordon say they want the council to put up signs which alert shoppers they are still open for business.

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Media captionThe landmark building was gutted by the fire within a matter of hours

James Neilly, who owns Pizza Boutique in Castle Street, said his business had to make the signs at its own expense, at a time when trade is down by a significant amount.

"I don't think the council understand the immediacy of this," he told BBC News NI.

Belfast City Council said it is working on the signs and hopes to have them in place soon.

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Media caption'It is just not fast enough'

The lack of signage is also causing problems for locals and tourists who are unsure how to get around the blocked off area.

People have also been trying to climb over the cordons, particularly at night.

It is understood police were called to the scene on Wednesday evening when a man attempted to climb the metal fence.

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