The cost of replacing refuse lorries damaged in the weekend fire at the council depot in Chickerell could amount to almost £3 million.

As reported, a huge fire broke out at the Crookhill site on Sunday.

Dorset councillors were told at a meeting yesterday that the new cost of each of the vehicles is around £185,000.

Finance senior officer Jim McManus said it was his understanding that up to £500,000 would be covered from council financial reserves as the authority self-insured for many of its claims – the rest would be the subject of a claim to its insurers.

*MORE than 20 bin lorries were destroyed or heavily damaged, writes Josie Klein.

Dorset Council has begun clearing Crookhill waste depot in Chickerell after Sunday's major fire, which saw more than 90 firefighters and 15 crews attend.

In total, 16 collection vehicles for rubbish, recycling and garden waste, and five vehicles used for cleansing and maintenance were destroyed or heavily damaged by the blaze and councillors predict it will cost several million pounds to replace them.

An investigation into the cause of the fire has been launched.

To minimise any disruption of waste collection to local residents, councillors have started locating and hiring replacement vehicles.

A spokesman for Dorset Council said: "Affected residents are free to take their waste to a household recycling centre but are warned that lockdown restrictions are still in place and there may be long queues.

"We recommend storing your waste at home if it isn’t presenting a risk to health or injury, and only use a recycling centre if you absolutely must at this time."

Councillors are unable to give a solid start date for when collections in Weymouth and Portland will resume.

Councillor Jill Haynes, portfolio holder for customer services and communities, said: "On behalf of everyone at Dorset Council, I want to thank our colleagues in Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue for their efforts over the last 24 hours – their work to keep everyone safe, contain the fire and prevent further damage has been fantastic.

"Now we begin the process of recovering from this major incident. The loss of so many vehicles will inevitably impact our ability to deal with Weymouth and Portland’s waste over the coming days, but officers are working hard to get alternative plans into place.

"It’s in no one's interests for the collection service to be delayed a moment longer than it must be.

"In the meantime, please bear with us while we get to grips with the challenges this incident presents.

"We also want to express our gratitude for the messages of support we have received and thank you for your patience and understanding over the next few days."

The main building has suffered minor smoke damage and the waste transfer barn - where collected waste is kept before being sent to recycling or treatment facilities - is undamaged.

Dorset Council is fully insured against fire loss and is working with insurers.