A CHURCH building in Newport city centre, partially destroyed by fire two years ago, has been further damaged by another blaze following a recent revamp.

Crews from across south Wales were called to the Abundant Life Centre on Lower Dock Street close to 12.20pm on Tuesday, March 20.

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The road was closed for almost three hours and residents and workers in the area were evacuated while 37 firefighters from eight stations tackled the blaze.

The fire follows on from another devastating incident in 2016, which destroyed predominantly the rear of the building.

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However, this fire caused damage to the front of the church, although the cause of the damage remains unknown.

Investigators will be returning to Lower Dock Street later this week to piece together the events that led to the fire.

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A spokeswoman for the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) said: "At 12.19pm, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service received reports of a fire at a building on Lower Dock Street, Newport.

"Thirty-two firefighters and five officers from Malpas, Duffryn, New Inn, Roath, Maindee, Cardiff Central, Barry and Merthyr Tydfil were in attendance; with five fire appliances, two aerial ladder platforms, one heavy rescue tender and three water bowsers.

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"On arrival, crews were confronted with a well-developed fire throughout the three-storey building, causing the roof to collapse.

"Neighbouring properties were evacuated and a police cordon remains in place.

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"The cause of the fire is unknown and an investigation will continue tomorrow morning."

She added the stop message was issued at 3.17pm.

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Steve Cole, a group manager with the SWFRS, said at the scene: “We have attended a fire in a building that has been renovated.

“It is a three-storey building at the front and a two-storey building at the back.

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Picture Chris Taylor

“When we attended, it was a well-established fire.

“We have put the fire out and hopefully we can stop the building collapsing any further. Our concerns are about the structure of the building and that will be passed onto the building inspector.”

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Picture Jonathan Jones

Newport-based taxi firm ABC Taxis is located next door to the church building, and was situated within the inner cordon area.

Rafiq Tufail, the firm’s owner, said he was first alerted to the fire when one of his drivers came to the office.

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Picture Ceri Davidson

“A driver came in and said if I were you, I’d get out of there – next door is on fire,” he said.

“We didn’t believe him. He told us to move our cars and at that point, just a little pillar of smoke was coming out of top – that was it

“We moved the cars and called the fire brigade. “

Mr Tufail added that the scale of the fire was the worst he had seen, and debris from the fire was falling on his building.

“I’ve never seen a fire that big in the six years of the firm being there,” he said.

“There has been a number of fires in that time but it is the worst one I’ve seen.

“It’s not just the fire, part of the building has been collapsing and hitting my building.

“I haven’t seen what damage has been caused yet.”

The taxi firm boss expressed his gratitude to the emergency services, notably the fire bridge, and local businesses for their help during the blaze.

“I have to take my hat off to the fire service. The amount of fire there was and the way they dealt with it was incredible,” said Mr Tufail.

“They are so brave – absolutely top draw.

“In fact all of the emergency services on the scene have been great and the Dolman theatre have been great to us but taking us in and keeping us warm with teas and coffees.”

Eyewitnesses reported seeing huge plumes of smoke and flames in the air, while others said they were prevented from walking near to the fire.

“When I first saw it, people were being evacuated from buildings next to it, but I don’t know if anyone was in there,” said shop worker Chloe Davies, who was on her lunch break.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in real life. The flames were shooting out of the top and roof is all gone.”

Paul Bennett said he came out of the Newport Centre and saw a “huge plume of smoke”.

“The fire brigade were on the scene then, but it looked well alight. There were flames in most of the gaps where the windows were,” he said.

Ceri Rees, who was shopping in Newport, said she came out of Wilko to find the road blocked off and smoke and flames pouring from the building.

“It was well alight and the police keeping everyone away,” she said.

“I heard glass smashing and bits of masonry falling. It’s a mess.”

Ffion Morgan added “I was at work and a colleague pointed out smoke coming from outside so we went to the window to see.

“We saw thick black smoke coming from the top window of the building. A window on the third floor shattered and the flames started to spread out the window to the roof.

“Within minutes the roof was ablaze.”