Officials have confirmed that the Belfast Primark fire has caused a “structural collapse” within the city’s five-storey Bank Buildings.
A police cordon remains in place around the historic building following the blaze, which is still being fought by firefighters.
A statement issued by the Belfast Fire Service on Wednesday morning reads: “Over 30 firefighters, five fire appliances, a Command Support Unit and an Aerial Appliance are currently still in attendance at the incident at Primark, Castle Street, Belfast.
“The incident is ongoing and fire-fighting operations will continue throughout today.
“There has been structural collapse within the building this morning and a 45-metre exclusion zone remains in place.
“NIFRS [Norther Ireland Fire and Rescue Service] continues to work closely with partner agencies to bring the incident to a conclusion and protect the safety of the public and our firefighters.”
The collapse affected the interior floors but the building’s exterior remains intact.
A blaze started at the five-storey building on Tuesday and firefighters worked through the night to contain it.
Earlier on Wednesday, the company in charge of Belfast city centre management has tweeted an updated list of road closures:
Belfast’s metro system has also been affected:
Alan O’Neill, from the Northern Ireland Fire Service, told the BBC: “We’ve been cooling [the building] from the outside, but it is going to take a bit more time to get the fire out – we’re likely to be there for the next couple of days.
“It certainly has been very challenging and they did extremely well to prevent it speaking to the neighbouring buildings of Tesco and Zara.”
Shoppers and staff were evacuated from the building at about 11am on Tuesday and huge plumes of black smoke and flames could be seen coming from the roof.
A Primark spokesman said: “Following yesterday’s fire at our Bank Buildings store in Belfast, the welfare of our colleagues remains our most important concern and we are fully committed to supporting them during this difficult time.
“Our management team in Belfast are meeting their colleagues over the next few days to provide them with the necessary support and information.
“We are continuing to work with the relevant authorities to determine the cause of the fire.
“We would like to thank everyone for their amazing support during this very challenging time for all concerned.”
The Bank Buildings was built in 1785 and after serving as a bank, it became the residence of the Bishop of Down and Connor.
In 1805, it was converted into a shop, and has remained an outlet for retail ever since. Primark took over the building in 1979 and restored it to its former glory.
The future of the structure is currently in doubt and as officials wait to see the extent of the damage, the Belfast Buildings Trust (BBT) has called for it to be restored.
Shane Quinn, BBT development manager, said: “In reality, the full extent of the damage will take time to assess.
“Rebuilding will require creativity and hard effort, and we hope that the city and the building’s owners will make every effort possible to make sure that the Bank Buildings once again brings life to the city’s heart.”