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London's Big Ben falls silent


The 29-million-pound ($38 million) fix project on the Queen Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben and its clock, is expected to take years to complete.

Parliament bowed to pressure last week when it announced it would review the plans, which will silence the bell for the longest period in its 157-year history, after Prime Minister Theresa May joined an MPs' outcry against the move.

The giant bell atop Parliament's clock tower sent a dozen deep bongs into a gray sky at noon, marking the hour as it has done nearly continuously since 1859.

They expressed anger at the length of time allocated for the £29million refurbishment of the Elizabeth Tower, when the bells will not ring in order to protect workers from hearing damage.

It will be disconnected and will sound more the hours as it had done since 158 years nearly without interruption, accompanied by a carillon of four bells smaller for the quarters of an hour.

Conservative MP Conor Burns has mocked colleagues who intend to gather at Big Ben to mark the silencing of its bongs, telling BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour: "I think you will not see too many who have careers ahead of them".

The famous clock's bell has been stopped over health and safety concerns, silencing an emblem of continuity as Britain grapples with Brexit negotiations.

The clock's keeper, Steve Jaggs, said Big Ben falling silent was a "significant milestone" in the project to restore the tower.

She said she hoped a House of Commons commission would "look into this urgently so that we can ensure that we can continue to hear Big Ben through those four years". The upcoming fix on the 158-year-old timepiece is not just a simple case of winding up, but rather requires a great amount of work. As part of the latest renovation, the clock is to be dismantled, with each cog examined and restored, the glass repaired and the hands removed and refurbished. The clock came into operation on May 31, 1859 but Big Ben itself did not ring out until July 11 of that year.

Party colleague Peter Bone said: "Big Ben should bong when we come out of the European Union, absolutely". Even experts in the clock-making industry have stated forthrightly that the bells don't need to go quiet for so long.

MPs and parliamentary workers gathered to listen as the Great Bell chimed noon before being halted to allow work to begin. Its bongs will still sound for important events such as New Year's Eve celebrations.

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