Saving the bongs; Big Ben to fall silent while under repair

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Is Big Ben Broken?

LONDON (AP) -- Big Ben's bongs may fall silent for months or even years as urgent repairs are carried out.

Two of Britain's largest newspapers reported Sunday that Parliament's massive clock and the tower that supports it need as much as 40 million pounds (61.7 billion) in repairs -- work that will silence the famous bell, Big Ben.

The Sunday Times, citing a Westminster source, says the clock is so dilapidated it may grind to a halt. The Mail on Sunday suggested the clock's hands could fall off without urgent action.

The Times says repairs to the Elizabeth Tower must begin as soon as possible and can't wait for the 7 billion pound ($10.8 billion) restoration of the entire Palace of Westminster that is scheduled to begin at the end of the decade.

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