Thursday 19 September 2019

Multi-million-euro insurance battle looms over Douglas Village Shopping Centre blaze

A firefighter tackles the blaze Cork City Fire Brigade/PA Wire
A firefighter tackles the blaze Cork City Fire Brigade/PA Wire
Cork City Fire Brigade handout photo of the aftermath of a large fire in the multi-storey parking facility of the Douglas Village Shopping Centre. Photo: Cork City Fire Brigade/PA Wire
Destruction: Dozens of the worst affected cars. Photo: Cork City Fire Brigade/PA Wire
Fire crews tackling the fire in the multi-storey parking facility of the Douglas Village Shopping Centre (Cork City Fire Brigade/PA)

Ralph Riegel

A multi-million-euro compensation battle is looming between a car manufacturer and a motor-insurance firm over responsibility for a blaze that will force a Cork shopping centre's multi-storey car park to be demolished.

Douglas Village Shopping Centre and its multi-storey car park had to be evacuated last Saturday after an accidental fire broke out in a parked car.

The car, parked on level one of the car park, later had its fuel tank explode and flames spread to other cars.

The female driver had tried to raise the alarm.

Precisely what happened was then recorded by CCTV cameras in the facility.

By the time the blaze was subsequently brought under control by 11 units of Cork Fire Brigade in a major incident response, some 60 cars had been gutted or badly damaged.

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Cork City Fire Brigade handout photo of the aftermath of a large fire in the multi-storey parking facility of the Douglas Village Shopping Centre. Photo: Cork City Fire Brigade/PA Wire

Hundreds of other cars were trapped on the upper levels of the car park.

However, the major problem was caused by the intensity of the fire which, it has now been confirmed, damaged the structural integrity of the car park's steel support beams.

READ MORE: Cork car park fire: Hundreds of vehicles trapped by blaze could take days to remove by crane

A senior legal source has indicated that initial liability for the damage involved will now be claimed from the car owner's insurance company.

This is expected to trigger a secondary action, where the insurance firm will involve the giant car manufacturer.

Engineering assessments are still ongoing as to the precise cause of the fire, but it is suspected the blaze started within the electrical system of the vehicle before spreading to the fuel tank.

Experts acknowledged that the damages involved with run to millions of euro.

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Destruction: Dozens of the worst affected cars. Photo: Cork City Fire Brigade/PA Wire

Demolition of the damaged multi-storey car park sections won't begin for several weeks.

Key steel support beams warped and failed due to the extreme temperature of the blaze.

Cork Fire Brigade official Victor Shine said: “This was a very intense fire and there was structural failings in the vicinity of the fire," he said.

Douglas Village Shopping Centre confirmed that consultants warned that there was no option but to partially demolish the damaged sections involved.

READ MORE: 'Miracle' nobody was injured in multi-storey car park blaze, Cork fire crews share photos of aftermath

However, there has been no timeline set for the demolition works.

The painstaking process of removing the trapped cars from areas above Level One in the car park began today.

Douglas Village Shopping Centre manager Bartosz Mieszala said the process is expected to take about a week to complete.

Each car will have to be individually lifted out by crane.

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Fire crews tackling the fire in the multi-storey parking facility of the Douglas Village Shopping Centre (Cork City Fire Brigade/PA)

The car exit ramps cannot be used due to fears they could collapse due to the structural failings in the structure's steel support beams.

"It is standard procedure that the clamping companies or car transport companies do - it is quite straightforward," Mr Mieszala said.

"They will lift them down. Professional transport companies will be looking after it."

"The whole process is being managed by PJ Hegarty & Sons, who are now officially our contractor for all the rebuild."

Anchor tenants for the shopping centre include Tesco, Marks & Spencer and TK Maxx.

However, there are almost 50 smaller traders operating in units within the Douglas Village complex.

Douglas Village SC said they hoped to confirm a timeline for re-opening once all engineering and safety assessments were completed.

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