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Published 10/07/2014

Connla Young

HUGE bonfire close to a west Belfast interface is close to collapse, emergency services have warned.

The bonfire at Lanark Way in west Belfast has been built from a mountain of wooden pallets reaching 80ft into the Belfast skyline.

It is believed to be one of the largest bonfires in the north and dwarfs dozens of terraced houses that sit in its shadow.

It has now emerged that police have voiced concern about the height of the bonfire, which is located on waste ground close to a filling station.

It is understood the emergency services are concerned that the bonfire could collapse under its own weight either before or after it is lit tomorrow night.

Their main concern is for the safety of local houses and the nearby filling station.

The bonfire is set to be torched on the Eleventh night as part of the Twelfth of July loyalist celebrations.

Each year hundreds of people, including women and children, gather around the bonfire for the annual event.

However, as the huge pyre has started to lean to one side prompting concerns that it might topple over and fall on anyone underneath it.

In recent weeks a number of palettes used during the construction of the wooden tower have imploded under their own weight causing the structure to list to one side.

Eyewitnesses have reported that the pallets can also be heard cracking as they crumple under the weight.

Belfast DUP councillor Brian Kingston said: "Concerns have been expressed to me by the police about the height of this bonfire and the potential damage to local houses and a filling station."

Meanwhile, it has been claimed that a statue of Our Lady was placed on the loyalist bonfire for the third year in a row earlier this week.

A statue was stolen from its plinth at Cluain Mor, near the Springfield Road.

Grainy images of what appears to be a statue on top of the bonfire appeared on social media sites yesterday.

However, it is claimed the statue was later removed from the pyre.

Controversy erupted last year when a statue of Our Lady was placed on a bonfire at the same site.

It was later returned to Catholic church authorities.

Earlier this month the Irish News revealed that loyalist flags bearing the letters BNP (British National Party) and "Enoch Powell was right" were hung from lampposts close to the bonfire site.

Both Sinn Fein and the Republican Network for Unity have condemned the theft of the statue.

A spokesman for the PSNI said: "Police are aware of the statue and are making enquiries".