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VERBIER SPORTS CENTRE RISES FROM ASHES - Catie Friend, Verbier
Monday June 19, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

That's the hope of the resort after it was destroyed by fire earlier this month. PlanetSKI is in Verbier and sees the damage first hand.

The authorities in the Swiss resort have met to assess the damage and look at the future.

It was destroyed in a huge fire on Friday, June 9th:

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And this is what is now left as I saw with my own eyes as I toured the site:

The bi-monthly Commune meeting of the Conséillers Généraux (legislative assembly) and the Conséillers Communale (executive committee) met last week to assess the damage.

And to discuss a way forward.

"The first priority is the security and then the cleaning up of the site," said Vincent Michellod, Conséiller Général, to PlanetSKI after the meeting.

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The authorities hope to open the outdoor pool as planned this summer but first they need to make sure that the water and the surrounding areas are safe.

From an hour after the first emergency call, the local water board has been monitoring both the river water and the local water supply.

There were small amounts of ash in the rivers, but the water supply has remained unpolluted.

The site is still covered in water and this will need to be removed and the internal piping checked before the pool can be safely opened to the public.

The entire complex of the old sports centre needs to be demolished.

It is a wreck and the air still smells of fire and smoke days after the blaze..

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Demolition will begin once the forensic investigation has been completed and the authorities have declared the site safe.

One problem includes working out how safely to remove the ammonia from underneath the ice rink.

The ammonia was of immediate concern as the fire raged out of control.

If leaked it can cause burning in the nose and throat and worse if exposed to it for a long time.

They brought in a special fire truck with high pressure hose, in case they would have to break through the concrete floor, to cool the ammonia.

But finally they didn't have to use it, as the ammonia tank room remained cool enough without breaking through the concrete floor.

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Now I have to declare an interest as the Sports Centre has played a very special place in my life and that of my family for all the years I have lived here.

See the link below for my separate and personal report on the destruction of the Sports Centre.

The fire broke out at 1.30pm and general alarms were sounded mid-afternoon as the fire took hold - people were ordered to stay inside with their windows closed.

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FIRE FACTS

  • 100 firefighters
  • 30 fire vehicles
  • 20 police officers
  • 10 police vehicles
  • 1 specialist hazardous chemical unit and team from Monthey to deal with any air and water pollution
  • 21 explosions (thought to be from gas cylinders in the kitchens and on the building site)
  • Some parts of the gas tanks flew up to 500m from the site

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One of the major losses is the wooden roof.

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Its distinctive architecture previously so visible in its position high on the mountain.

This was to form part of the new building underneath to maintain the charm and character of the original structure.

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This is now only visible in the still smouldering beams left above the former ice rink.

The new building, due to open this summer, miraculously has little obvious damage.

Its structure is to be thoroughly tested to see that it was not weakened by the 1500 degree temperatures.

It is a small blessing that the wind last Friday was blowing down the mountain and over the open-air pool, keeping the flames away from the long awaited new climbing facility.

A committee has been formed to decide how to move forward and it has a mammoth task ahead.

The road is long - police inquiries, specialist lawyers and insurance companies to court are amongst the obstacles in the way.

Then there is the new structure with financing, planning permissions and a host of obstacles to overcome.

Vincent Michellod finished by quoting to me fighting talk from the President of the Commune de Bagnes, "We're going to build it better than before."

Let's hope that, like the day of the fire, the wind is blowing in the right direction.

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