…billions in estimated losses, 500 employees on breadline
By Romario Samaroo
The popular Gafoors Shopping Complex located at Houston, East Bank Demerara went up in flames on Monday as workers were about to leave for the day.
Reports are that the fire started about 15:00h in Bond Number Three, which contained fishing equipment.
Despite attempts by firefighters from the Guyana Fire Service to contain the blaze, the fire quickly engulfed the building as the glass shutters shattered.
Employees broke down in tears as firefighters’ efforts were overpowered by the flames. The Complex, which included 15 bonds, sold a wide variety of household building materials and locally manufactured products, was completely destroyed as firefighters with the aid of six fire trucks were unable to control the massive fire as it ripped through the entire building.
An employee in tears told this newspaper that she heard a colleague shouting “Fire! Fire!” and everyone in the complex, including shoppers, began to evacuate the premises.
Another employee noted that the Fire Service was contacted and they arrived about 20 minutes later and took another 10 minutes to set up equipment and source water. Hours after the fire started, firefighters were still struggling to contain the blaze.
Meanwhile, speaking with this newspaper, Sattaur Gafoor, the owner of the Gafoors Shopping Complex, indicated that his losses were
estimated to be in the vicinity of billions. He added that the Complex was insured and it has been providing employment for over 500
individuals. Gafoor noted that it would be a long time before the Complex could be fully functional again as he needed to assess the damage and figure out a way forward.
Workers at the scene highlighted that there were a number of flammable materials and chemicals that attributed to the fast development of the fire.
Up to press time, there was no looting reported, but every effort was made by passersby to help salvage what remained of the popular shopping complex.