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Cutty Sark still 'too fragile' for engineers to board

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ENGINEERS HAVE been unable to survey the re-ravaged remains of the Cutty Sark because it is too precarious and contaminated to board, the vessel's owners said this week.

Fire swept through the Victorian tea clipper, which is in dry dock in Greenwich, London, early on Monday 21 May (NCE 24 May).

It was hoped that engineers could survey damage to the ship's wrought iron frames and timber planking as soon as the police had completed their forensic investigation.

But work must be carried out to stabilise and clean the stricken structure before any engineering survey or materials analysis can be allowed, said Eric Kentley, a conservation consultant to the Cutty Sark Trust, which owns the ship.

'We'll have to contain the site. Lead from paint used to protect the ship's iron frame has been released throughout the structure, and there are worries about asbestos. Clean up will require specialist contractors.' Kentley added that because the ship's three decks had been burned away, new platforms would have to be installed before any detailed inspections can be carried out.

A spokeswoman for the Trust told NCE: 'The ship's extremely fragile following the fire. We'd been hoping to have carried out an initial damage assessment by now, but that's unlikely to happen for another two to three weeks.

'Right now the focus is on making the ship stable and safe to work around.' The fire halted a £25M project to restore the ship, though the Trust has launched a campaign to raise an additional £10M to continue work.

In the 1,000 oC heat of the re some of Cutty Sark's wrought iron frames and beams yielded and deformed. The re also burned away the ship's three timber decks, which provided lateral support to the hull. This has caused struts propped against the dock walls and holding the hull steady to slip.

But Kentley claimed: 'It appears from the outside that deformation of the iron frames hasn't been as bad as at first feared.' No cause for the fire has yet been identified.

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