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Traffic chaos three days on from city head shop blaze

AN AREA of Dublin city centre remained cordoned off today following an incident of suspected arson at a head shop.

Traffic has been severely affected since the fire, which completely destroyed the store on Capel Street.

Firefighters tackling the blaze rescued almost half a million euro in cash from a safe in the basement before one building was partly knocked down.

Dublin Fire Brigade said that three shops, including a souvenir store and a sex shop, will have to be demolished.

The €485,000 sum of money was found in the Nirvana head shop and kept by gardai over the weekend.

The money was taken to the Bridewell Garda Station with the consent of shop owner Jim Bellamy. The cash is believed to be takings from the lucrative trade in 'legal highs' and the adult store.

The blaze began at around 6am on Friday, with local residents reporting that a loud bang had come from the shop.

Five units of the Dublin Fire Brigade, including units from Tara Street, Phibsboro and North Strand stations, brought the blaze under control at 11am.

However, the fire was not completely extinguished until 5pm. Today, Capel Street remained closed at the junction of Little Strand Street.

Gardai believe the fire was started deliberately, most likely by a burning accelerant being thrown into the building from the street.

The Garda Technical Bureau was carrying out a full examination of the site this morning.

Mr Bellamy said on Friday that he believed the fire was arson.

Nirvana operates six shops in the country, including two in Dublin city centre.

In a recent interview, Mr Bellamy said that his last VAT return, covering two months of business, was €83,000.

Traffic was badly affected today as motorists were unable to travel from Capel Street onto the quays.

There had been fears the fire might spread to other buildings before it was brought under control.

No-one was injured in the incident, although a number of residents living in nearby flats were evacuated.