THE clean-up operation is still ongoing after thieves stripped a roof and destroyed a community building.
Members of the Burnopfield Masonic Lodge, in Burnopfield, County Durham, were devastated to find their hall had been targeted twice over the festive period.
Thieves stole £150 worth of lead from the roof, causing the hall, on Front Street, to flood.
As water poured into the building, carpets, seating and furnishings were all ruined.
The cost of the damage was first estimated to be more than £7,000 but recent bad weather has worsened the damage and the bill for the repair is now soaring.
The cost of cleaning up and restoring the hall has been estimated at £20,000 to £30,000.
Chairman of the hall management committee and lodge secretary Brian Graham, 71, of Ryton, Gateshead, said: “Because of the weather not a thing has been done. The damage is so far gone it’s unbelievable. I would say there’s three or four times more damage than before.
“I think it’s going to cost £20,000 to £30,000 to put right now.
“There’s a lot of people saying it can never be the same again but I’ve put my heart and soul into it for 23 years and I think there’s hope for it yet.
“But at the minute, standing there looking at the state of it, I feel like crying.”
The Journal first reported on the thefts in December, after the criminals brought misery to the local community, many of whom regularly used the building for meetings and events.
Mr Graham, who has been secretary of the hall since 1993, said: “The scrap value of the metal taken wouldn’t exceed £150. They’d be lucky to get that for it yet it has caused all of these problems for us.
“The roof is damaged, the carpets have all had to come up and the seating is soaked through.
“It’s such a shame when you think that the building was looking the best it had ever – everyone was commenting on it.
“This has set us back about 20 years.”
The first theft happened some time between Thursday, December 13, and Saturday, December 22, while the second happened on Friday, December 28.
The culprits have yet to be brought to justice and Durham Constabulary continues to investigate the incident.
Any witnesses or anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 or ring the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.