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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 17:19 GMT
Yarl's Wood 'too dangerous' to enter
Yarl's Wood on fire
The severe damage has hampered searches of the site
Police investigating the devastating fire at Yarl's Wood immigration centre say it is still too dangerous to search the building.

Detective Chief Superintendent David Tomlinson, from Bedfordshire Police, warned the inquiry was to be a slow process.

He told a news conference there was no evidence to suggest anyone died in the incident.

However 25 people are still believed to be missing after the riot and fire which partially destroyed the complex.

There is no point rushing in and destroying evidence which may be there

Det Chief Sup David Tomlinson

Mr Tomlinson said about 35 detectives were working on the criminal investigation.

He said: "This is going to be a long and protracted inquiry.

"Evidence gathering from witnesses and the scene is going to be a painstaking process.

"There is no point rushing in and destroying evidence which may be there."

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Mr Tomlinson said he had visited the site with recovery and disaster specialists.

Firefighters damp down at the 100m centre
Firefighters damp down at the 100m centre

He added: "It is clear at present that it is too dangerous to enter the site.

"At the moment an initial logistical plan is being drawn up as to how we can go about recovering any evidence safely."

The police were unable to give any further information about the 25 detainees believed to be missing.

Mr Tomlinson said: "I am also aware there is a lot of concern about people unaccounted for.

"We have said that until the site is thoroughly searched we cannot be sure that everyone escaped unhurt.

"But it is important to emphasise at present we have no evidence to suggest anyone has died in the fire."

Three inquiries

Separate inquiries by the Immigration Service, police and the centre's security company Group 4 are under way into the incident, which caused damage valued at 38m.

Officers were attacked when an argument erupted in the visitors' centre on Thursday night.

Six people, including two police officers, were injured in the riot.

Built last year to house 900 people, Yarl's Wood is Europe's largest immigration centre.

Group 4 said 123 detainees have been transferred to other sites, with 222 remaining in the undamaged area.

See also:

17 Feb 02 | England
Asylum centre damage assessed
15 Feb 02 | England
Inquiry into riot at asylum centre
15 Feb 02 | Business
Surviving the jokes: Group 4 Falck
15 Feb 02 | England
Picture gallery: Asylum fire
15 Feb 02 | England
State of the art centre
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