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Man is arrested after wheelie bin set alight at Craigavon hospital

By Stewart Robson

A 23-year-old man has been arrested after an attempted arson attack at Craigavon Area Hospital.

A large wheelie bin was set on fire in a loading bay close to the pharmacology unit of the hospital on Wednesday night.

Police said it could have caused extensive damage to surrounding buildings and had the threat to endanger life.

No members of staff were evacuated from the unit.

The PSNI and the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service both attended the scene, with the incident ending around 20 minutes after the emergency call was made by hospital staff.

PSNI Superintendent David Moore said he was relieved to hear that no patients or staff members were hurt in the attack.

"Thankfully, no one was injured during the incident, which is being treated as arson at this time," he said.

"Shortly after 11am, a 23-year-old male was arrested on suspicion of arson endangering life with intent.

"The man currently remains in custody assisting police with their enquiries. I would ask anyone with any information about this incident to contact police in Lurgan on the non-emergency number 101."

Politicians condemned the attack, which comes amid a crisis facing the NHS during the busy Christmas and new year period.

Latest figures show a total of 2,059 people attended the hospital between December 24 and January 1.

In 125 cases, the patient waited more than 12 hours.

Carla Lockhart, DUP MLA for Upper Bann, praised the efforts of the emergency services and their rapid response.

"I am glad that due to the swift action of the Fire and Rescue Service and the PSNI, an attempted arson attack at Craigavon Area Hospital was halted," she said.

"Thankfully any risk posed to staff and further damage to this unit was averted last night. Praise must be given to the Fire and Rescue Service who dealt with the matter efficiently and to the PSNI who have made a subsequent arrest.

"This sinister incident has come at a time when our health service is under incredible pressure. It defies logic that someone would seek to destroy our local hospital."

It is understood that the DUP MLA met with the Southern Health Trust yesterday to discuss the recent crisis.

Ms Lockhart's statement was echoed by Sinn Fein MLA for the area, John O'Dowd.

"I want to condemn this attack outright," he said.

"Our health services are under severe pressure. Any lasting damage caused to the pharmacy wing of the hospital could have resulted in multiple deaths.

"Fortunately, on this occasion, there were no fatalities and no lasting damage was caused. But it could have been so very different.

"I want to praise emergency services and staff at Craigavon Area Hospital for their quick response which helped bring the fire under control - ensuring no loss of life."

The Southern Health Trust operates across Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Dungannon, and Newry and Mourne districts.

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