SAFETY fears have delayed the start of a probe into the cause of a blaze at a Hampshire hospital.

Investigators were last night still waiting for helium used as a coolant in the MRI scanner at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital (RHCH) in Winchester to be released before they look into what sparked the ferocious fire on Friday.

More than 100 firefighters fought the flames, preventing them spreading from the scanning unit to nearby hospital buildings. Nobody was injured.

A Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman said: “It is not an explosive risk just whether it is suitable for people to enter the buildings.”

She said there was concern over the possible risk of asphyxiation.

A spokesman for Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the RHCH, said: “Normally the helium would be released manually but because the roof has collapsed on top of the MRI scanner we can’t get to it to release the helium, so we need it to release itself.

“It may go with a pop when it goes but it is not an explosive gas and shouldn’t do any damage.

“The hope is it will go quietly straight into the atmosphere but because there is rubble on top there may be some debris flying around. The area has been sealed off.”

As previously reported, the hospital has drafted in mobile CT and MRI scanners which are operating out of Queens Road car park.