Architects have inserted small sheets of glass across the dangerous cracks that have appeared in the stonework of Fort St Angelo in Vittoriosa. If these break they have advised anybody inside to evacuate, The Sunday Times has learnt.

It is understood that the resident knight, Fra John Critien, who lives in the upper part of the fort, and the security company controlling access at the gate have been told that broken glass would be a signal that the walls were moving and the cracks widening. If that happens the walls could collapse.

Access to the fort was blocked for safety reasons by Heritage Malta last July. This move was not announced and two on-site notices fail to make reference to the danger. Instead, the signs state that restoration works are in progress, though there are no visible signs of this taking place.

The biggest problem, as The Sunday Times revealed last week, lies with the fort's main entrance. The walls alongside the covered ramp that leads to the bottom part of the fort have developed serious fissures, possibly caused by the rusting beams that were put there by the British after the arched entrance was bombed during the Second World War.

"I expect the worst to happen in the winter months when the rains set in," Vittoriosa mayor John Boxall told The Sunday Times, concerned about the state the fort is in.

He reiterated that shutting down the fort was not a so- lution and something had to be done "urgently" to restore the building.

Last week, part of the bastion wall in Floriana collapsed, possibly because of the heavy downpour which could have expanded the earthenware behind the stone skin creating pressure on the outer wall. It is not just the entrance to Fort St Angelo that is in a poor state. The road that leads from the bottom part of the fort to the upper section has collapsed, leaving a gaping hole in the middle.

The area around the hole has been cordoned off with plastic tape and it is unclear how stable the area around the hole is.

Furthermore, a mere visual inspection of the fort's outer bastions shows that, apart from bushes and plants, trees have grown from the stone walls. In 1998, the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of Malta was granted a concession to the upper part of the fort for 99 years. The Knights have conducted restoration works in the area under their responsibility.

The fortification is also expected to house a health spa centre which forms part of the Cottonera Waterfront Group project in the area. Restoration works in the environs of the health spa have also been done.

It was in commemoration of the victory over the Turks that Birgu was renamed Vittoriosa, a title that risks being lost unless the fort manages to repel the siege of neglect.

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