Business owner drops dead, four trapped chinese rescued
- As fire razes four regent street buildings
An early morning fire on Regent Street yesterday left millions of dollars in damage and losses and one businessman dead.
Businessman, Ramdat Shiwprasad, 64, owner of Indra’s Fashion which was also destroyed, collapsed upon seeing the fire and was pronounced dead minutes later at a city hospital.
Firemen were able to rescue four Chinese nationals who were trapped in one of the burning buildings. They sustained minor bruises and burns about their bodies.
The inferno began around 05:15 hrs yesterday and investigations were continuing late in the day as to the cause.
In total four buildings were burnt and more than 100 persons left without jobs. At least two persons, including Chinese, were left homeless.
Among the businesses destroyed were Boyo’s Fashion, Clairans, Indra’s Fashion, Lucky Dollar and several other clothing stores owned by Chinese nationals.
A vendor, Mauricia Charles, who had stored her goods in the Lucky Dollar, arrived on the scene in tears having lost all of her items.
“I don’t normally keep my things in this store but my motorcycle break down and the person who does help me transport my goods didn’t come so I just left it there for the night and everything is now gone,” the woman lamented.
The distraught woman, who is the breadwinner for her nine children, said she doesn’t know how to start over since only December last all her goods were stolen after she left it overnight at another store.
Balram Shiwprasad, whose father collapsed and died at the sight of the fire, said the fire brought back terrible memories for his entire family of another blaze at the same location in 1987. Recounting the morning’s event, the man said he was alerted of the fire by some persons who were two buildings away.
“I panic and started calling for 911 but I wasn’t getting no answer and my father wake up in the whole commotion and he fainted and we try reviving him but he didn’t get up.”
Balram said other relatives rushed his father to a city hospital while he stayed on the scene to see what would have become of their family’s business and home.
“I stay back to watch over hoping that the fire won’t reach the building and then I get a call minutes after that my father died. This had to be too much for him as only in 1987 we lost this same building but we rebuild and now look what happen again,” the businessman said. It was too much for him and he broke down in tears.
The building in which Shiwprasad collapsed is housed in Indra’s Fashion, The family lived upstairs.
The owner of another building, Claire Pires, which housed American Fashion, raced down to the scene after receiving the call about the fire. Pires told this publication that she was on the
Georgetown Seawall doing her morning exercise routine when she got the call.
The woman who fought to hold back tears said her son, Anthony, operated a store in the lower flat of the building, while another section of the building was rented out to a Chinese national. Firemen of the Guyana Fire Service did their best to contain the blaze. The first three buildings, which were mostly made of wood, were quickly gutted and firemen directed their attention to the Lucky Dollar building.
City Mall saved
As firemen doused the building with water they quickly realized that the roof of the building had already caught fire. Within minutes of fire fighters putting their high rise fighter truck into operation the glass windows on the building began shattering. Firemen and persons in the vicinity were forced to run to safety. With quick action by firefighters using that piece of equipment, the blaze was contained to that building preventing it from spreading to the multi-million dollar City Mall.
Owner of the City Mall, Nazar “Shell” Mohammed, who was also on the scene was in high praises of the Fire Service but at the same time expressed his regret over the losses of the other business owners.
There are reports that some stores within the mall may have sustained minor water damages as fire fighters were forced to soak the building in their attempt to save it.
Owners of several nearby stores were seen removing items to safety.
Meanwhile, there was high police presence between Alexander and Camp Streets, which were cordoned off to prevent looting. However, there were still reports of some looting prior to the barricades being erected.
According to Commander of “A” Division, George Vyphius, his ranks did an excellent job at containing the crowd. He noted that there were some reports of looting but he could not immediately say to what magnitude.
Fire Chief, Marlon Gentle, said the Fire Service received the first fire call at around 05:15 hours and immediately responded with three fire tenders. Firemen, on arriving were greeted by the sight of the first building completely engulfed. The upper flat of the second building was also engulfed.
“After we arrived and we got a better look at the situation we mobilized all units in Georgetown and once all our equipment had arrived we went into operation,”
The Fire Chief said their first priority was to prevent the fire from spreading both to the eastern and western direction since they are all main commercial areas.
“When the first three units arrived, the top of Clairans’ building was engulfed and within minutes Boyo’s building was on fire too,”
The Fire Chief added that after an hour of persistent work they were able to contain the blaze at the Lucky Dollar building.
“The three buildings were primarily of wood and therefore they would not have been able to resist the fire and added to that they were all heavily laden goods including cloth which gives off a lot of flames and burns easily.”
He added that fortunately they were able to rescue four Chinese Nationals who were trapped in one of the burning buildings.
“When we got here we heard that persons were trapped in a building and we also heard them banging on a metal shutter and screaming for help so we were forced to cut into the building to rescue them.”
This publication was told that the four Chinese suffered minor cuts and bruises about their body.
“The persons were taken into one of our trucks because they exited the buildings clutching bags with what we suspected to be valuables so we did that for their protection.”
The Fire Chief further noted that while they did bring out all of their fire fighting capabilities the inferno overwhelmed their resources.
“We came with all of our capacity but the magnitude of this fire overpowered our capacity, so we had to resort to the Church Street Canal, the North Road Canal and the South Road canal, the North Road was silted which was not good for us but overall we were able to do a good job.”
There were no working water hydrants in the area.
The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce & Industry in a press statement expressed sympathies and noted that the fire will no doubt create a setback on the economic fortunes of the businesses affected and the economy in general.