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The cost of rebuilding Big Ben increases 0:30
London (CNN) - Workers discovered “extensive” damage from a World War II bomb in the tower that houses London's famous Big Ben clock, forcing the restoration cost to increase by 18.6 million pounds (24.3 million dollars).
In a statement, the House of Commons, which is located in an adjoining part of the same building, said the remains of the Nazi Germany bombing campaign in London were discovered along with the pollution and asbestos in the Isabel Tower, more commonly known by the name of its iconic watch.
The nineteenth-century Gothic building has been wrapped in scaffolding since 2017, and the cost of restorations will now increase from 61.1 million pounds to 79.7 million (from $ 79.7 million to 104 million). Plans are still underway to complete the restoration in 2021, according to the statement.
The decomposition and damage in "hundreds of intricate carvings" also revealed an "extensive use" of toxic lead paint and broken glass on the dials of the watch, and the commission that manages the project said an additional expert was also needed in watches.
The total magnitude of the structural problems "was only revealed once the project team was able to begin intrusive investigations for the first time in the 177-year structure," he added.
But rising costs could anger critics of the long and expensive renovation program that will be launched in the Houses of Parliament over the next decade.
Big Ben, a popular tourist attraction, has been surrounded by scaffolding since 2017.
"It is very frustrating to know that the Torre Isabel project requires even more funds, having agreed to an additional 32 million pounds in 2017," a spokesman for the House of Commons Commission said in the statement.
"We have requested more detailed information on the lessons learned from this experience, as well as guarantees that stronger estimates are prepared for work of this nature in the future."
About 43,000 British civilians were killed during the Blitz between 1940 and 1941, which razed thousands of buildings and caused major restoration projects throughout the capital after the war ended.
Big Ben, a popular tourist attraction, has been surrounded by scaffolding since 2017. Once the works are completed, visitors can use an elevator inside the structure.
Shortly after the works are finished, a massive restoration program of 3.5 billion pounds (4.5 billion dollars) will be launched to modernize the crumbling and rapidly deteriorating Palace of Westminster, forcing lawmakers to move to another building.
As a national icon and World Heritage by UNESCO, its renovation represents an enormously complex operation, and several parliamentarians have criticized the high costs.
MIRA : Learn the reasons that generated the increase in the budget for the reconstruction of the famous Big Ben
But a report issued in September 2016 by a special joint commission of parliamentarians and members of the House of Lords warned of an "impending crisis" that could not be ignored responsibly.
The problems cited include extensive erosion and water damage throughout the palace, with old building pipes and electricity being of particular concern.
Last year, a leak in the House of Commons chamber forced parliamentarians to end their day early.