Asbestos in Cathedral to be analysed

Experts were to determine whether asbestos which tumbled down after a section of the roof of St George’s Cathedral collapsed, posed a health risk.

The fibres could be hazardous if inhaled or ingested.

Experts at a laboratory in Johannesburg have been tasked with determining whether the asbestos posed a health risk.

No one was injured when a part of the ceiling caved in on Friday.

The Dean of the cathedral, Reverend Michael Weeder, said a roofing ex-pert confirmed the collapse had been caused by water which had seeped through broken tiles and softened cement.

The landmark church had been fund-raising for years to replace its worn-out roof.

He said an architect and roofing experts would further assess the damage.

“The cathedral is a heritage site and is a very old building.

“Upon further inspection, we found the roof is in a far worse condition than we thought. Heavy rainfall led to a compromised roof over time.

“The fact is that with a broken roof the water seeped in and accumulated in large amounts,” he said.

The church was closed after the incident and they had been prepared to relocate Sunday Mass but decided against it because the water in the ceiling had dried and an architect deemed the roof no longer a safety risk.

Reverend Weeder said the National Lottery Board had come to the assistance of the church with a R7.5 million donation.

He said they had now had R8 million which would go towards fixing the roof but still needed an extra R4m to fully repair the ceiling.

The building suffered a major setback during winter last year.

Anglican archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba appealed for R20 million in donations for repairs, fearing the cathedral would not make it through another winter.

The “Under One Roof” campaign was launched to buy the 40 000 tiles needed to fix the cathedral’s roof.

Despite these setbacks, the church continues to look for sturdier and more quali- tative options from abroad. “The cathedral is in the process of renovation, and I have been to the Midlands of England to look at a factory that can improve Cape Town roof tiles to far superior quality that what we are able to produce locally,” said Reverend Weeder.

“The problem is South African tiles have much higher water re-tention capacity than English roof tiles, which is the primary cause of our compromised roof, combined with heavy rain and the Cape winter.

* Additional reporting by Sterling Conyers.