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Bozar fire damage worse than first thought, say authorities

Fire fighters pictured at a fire broke out on the roof of the BOZAR building in the centre of Brussels. (BELGA PHOTO LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ)
10:19 20/01/2021

The fire at the Palais des Beaux-Arts – Bozar – in Brussels on Monday night has caused more damage than first thought, according to the city’s Building Authority.

The fire was initially thought to have just damaged a section of the roof but further investigation in the wake of the blaze has shown that the Henry Le Boeuf concert hall and the organ housed there have also suffered.

"Inside the building, the Henry Le Boeuf room and its balconies are damaged, as is the organ,” a spokesperson for the Building Authority said. “Elsewhere, the ceiling has broken down in several exhibition spaces. But the glass roofs have generally held up well."

The spokesperson again reiterated that that, at this time, no artworks appear to have been affected by the fire, although an inspection of the area housing the Philippe Vandenberg exhibition is still ongoing.

The fire broke out late on Monday night and engulfed parts of the roof. According to a statement from the Brussels Fire Department, the blaze was completely contained by 21.30 and most fire crews had left the scene by midnight. One fire engine remained on site as a precaution and to secure the site.

Videos released by the fire department show flames spreading over the ceiling of one of the exhibition halls, one without any artwork, and fire hoses being deployed. Firefighters had to use a lot of water, which suggests there could be further damage to the structures and parquet floors of the showrooms. Pumps were needed to evacuate the water once the fire was out.

A team from the Buildings Authority visited the site on Tuesday morning, accompanied by Bozar technicians and a contractor to establish the first report on stability and safety of the building, as well as to make an initial assessment of the repairs which will be needed.

"We have two priorities: the safety of people working in the building and taking preventative measures," the Building Authority spokesperson said. "The gutters were severed during the fire department's response. Therefore, the flow of water will not be normal when bad weather arrives. We therefore want to limit water damage as much as possible."

Bozar will remain closed until at least next Monday. In the meantime, investigation teams will return to the site to assess the damage and its impact on future activities more accurately.

Written by Nick Amies