Antarctic fire damages climate change study

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The Independent Online

Fire destroyed an internationally renowned British laboratory in the Antarctic yesterday, dealing a serious blow to research into global climate change.

The blaze at the state-of-the-art Bonner Laboratory, which opened only four years ago, has thrown into doubt the future of a five-year project looking at how animals in Antarctica react to global warming.

Up to 100 people were expected at the British Antarctic Survey's Rothera Research Station from next month for the Antarctic summer but work has now been suspended because of the fire.

Nobody was in the laboratory when fire alarms went off at 1am yesterday, but staff who went to investigate were forced to pull out after they saw smoke and flames coming from a loft. The 21-strong workforce currently at the centre stayed in the main living quarters some distance away as the fire raged out of control, fanned by winds gusting up to 75mph.

Attempts to put it out with a snow-blowing machine and a small fire engine failed, the British Antarctic Survey said. The cause of the fire was being investigated.

Linda Capper, a spokes-woman, said: "Our initial thoughts are that this is a major blow for the science programmes. There is some data that we can still analyse but there could be a break in some of our long- term monitoring records."