THE Belfast Primark fire has caused a "structural collapse" within the five-storey building, it has been confirmed.
Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) personnel and structural engineers met at the site of yesterday's blaze this morning to establish the structural integrity of the historic structure.
Concerns have been raised as to whether the listed Victorian building could completely collapse, but the Belfast Buildings Trust (BBT) has called for it to be restored.
In a brief statement released on Wednesday morning, the NIFRS said: "Over 30 Firefighters, 5 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-meter exclusion zone remains in place.
.@NIFRS Area commander Aidan Jennings tells @williamcrawley that crews are still at the scene at Primark & structural engineers are examining the building. "It stands at this stage, but they will decide on its integrity," he says."There is still risk of collapse, full or in part" pic.twitter.com/iQVtdF0Zdy
— BBC Talkback (@BBCTalkback) August 29, 2018
"NIFRS 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 structural collapse affected the interior floors of the building but its exterior remains intact, the NIFRS added.
It comes after shoppers and staff were evacuated from the Primark store at around 11am on Tuesday as huge plumes of black smoke and flames began to rise above its roof.
Firefighters worked through the night to contain the inferno, which continued to burn in pockets throughout the store this morning.
The historic building, first constructed in 1785, has served as a retail outlet ever since 1805.
Primark took over the structure - officially known as the Bank Buildings - in 1979 and quickly restored it to its former glory, but doubts are growing as to whether it can ever 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."