'Arson attack' kills 4,300 pigs in Armagh farm

Police are investigating the cause of a fire that killed thousands of pigs at a farm in Northern Ireland.

Carcasses of the sows and piglets were being removed from the premises near Bessbrook, Co Armagh, in a major clean-up operation throughout today.

While the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) has said the fire, which broke out early on Saturday morning, may have been deliberate, the police have not yet determined if the incident was suspicious.

The NIFRS estimated that 800 sows and 3,500 piglets perished in what it described as an “intense” blaze. However, it is understood the owner of the property believes the death toll could be significantly lower than 4,300.

A significant number of pigs survived the fire, having been evacuated from the building as the flames took hold in the early hours

The NIFRS said three sheds were destroyed.

The expansive premises is situated at Derrywilligan Road around two miles from the village of Bessbrook – a rural area close to the Irish border.

Two days on from the blaze, an acrid smell was still detectable in the vicinity today.

A steady flow of trucks drove in and out of the farm ferrying away the carcasses for disposal.

Firefighters were called to the site at about 5.40am on Saturday, and it took crews seven hours to bring the situation under control.

Five fire appliances were called as well as water tankers and a hydraulic platform.

Stormont Assembly member Danny Kennedy, who lives a short distance from the farm, said he was shocked.

“This is a very distressing incident,” he said.

“Not only for the loss of this number of animals, but also the impact on this local business.”

A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) spokesman said: “At this stage, the cause of the fire is still under investigation and inquiries are continuing.”

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