Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
….man in custody, as investigators look at possible arson attack
By Svetlana Marshall
A fire, allegedly set by an arsonist over an old grievance, swept through a section of La Grange on Tuesday, destroying approximately five houses, a beer garden, a licensed liquor store and a canter truck in the process.
At the scene of the inferno, a source close to the investigation told Village Voice News that the Guyana Fire Service and the Guyana Police Force are working a number of leads, including a case of arson. Already, a man, who eye witnesses placed at the scene during the wee hours of Tuesday morning, has been taken into police custody, and is reportedly assisting with the investigation.
Reports indicate that the fire started at the Anantran’s residence at La Grange on the West Bank of Demerara and quickly spread to neighbouring buildings, located on Lot 36 Public Road, La Grange.
Fifty-seven-year-old Rajmatie Anantran, commonly known as “Mala,” said she and her 58-year-old husband were sound asleep when they were awaken by shouts of “Fire!” at around 1:30hrs on Tuesday.
Anantran’s neighbours had alerted them that the lower flat of their two storey wooden house was on fire. “They were saying that like the fire coming from the sewing room downstairs but I opened it and there was no fire there,” Anantran told Village Voice.
According to the 57-year-old woman, the fire was on a post on the outskirts of the building, and was quickly put out by residents, who had formed a bucket brigade to assist her husband.
“Like 1:52am we go back to bed but not fuh sleep because you know you can’t sleep, and ah hear something shattering. So meh ask meh husband, what happen there bai, he seh fire, fire girl,” the woman recalled.
She said upon realizing that the house was on fire for a second time, she and her husband exited the building using the front stairs, leaving everything behind. “I just stand up on the road and watch everything go up in flames,” she told Village Voice News.
The woman, who sews clothing for a living, is convinced that the fire, which started at the lower flat of the building was an act of arson. According to her, the suspected arsonist and her husband had an issue which landed them both in Court approximately two years ago but the man would often issues threats when passing the premises.
Sixty-three-year-old Businessman Purushotam Geawan, popularly known as “Rambo” told Village Voice News that he lost all of his life earnings, including four of the five houses destroyed in the blaze, his beer garden, licensed liquor store, canter truck, five generators and millions of dollars in cash and other valuables.
“I had a music set inside [valued] over 20 something million dollars, five generators, look a canter burn up, we couldn’t get it out. And I well stock up for this Mash…Friday I bought nearly 1000 cases of beer, Guinness and other stuff, and all gone down the drain,” the businessman told Village Voice News. Additionally, he is reported to have had GUY$1.5M in cash and thousands of dollars in US currency.
His properties were located on Lot 36 Public Road La Grange, West Bank Demerara.
With tears settled in his eyes, the businessman said upon realizing that his neighbour’s house was on fire, he alerted his wife. The couple then made their way out of their two-storey concrete and wooden house. “To get out of this building, is plenty doors, and locks, so I wake my wife and said, get out! Fire!,” the man recalled.
His son, wife and grandchild who occupied another building within the compound and other tenants, who rented his premises, were also alerted.
The businessman said upon realizing the fire had already consumed the lower flat of his neighbour’s house, and was a clear threat to his buildings, a visit was made to the Fire Station to inform them of the fire.
According to him, when the fire fighters arrived on the scene, his house and other properties were not on fire, but the firemen encountered a number of challenges in their attempt to respond to the blaze. “When they got here, the pump didn’t working,” he said.
He added: “When they reach here, none fire was on this building. I begging them throw water on this building, you know what they do, they spraying water on the building that already burnt. Everybody vex with them.”
“I had to call out my son, and his baby and wife to come out from there. When he come out, he stand up and see his house burning to flat.”
Geawan said it was hard to watch his life’s earnings reduced to ashes.
“I am 63-years-old and I sweat every day to build this building; I am the founder for this place and this is a double lot, I worked night and day, my wife does sit in a chair there and she sells everybody because you don’t want to lose a customer because competition strong.”
The businessman said his fire insurance had expired sometime ago.
“I am glad that no body ain’t die or suh but I lapse, insurance [expire] because you know everything cost money. I was painting a building at the back there and I said when I am finish I will go back and do a valuation and renew the insurance but look now what happen,” he said.
The businessman said the cash he kept at home was intended to offset any future health expense, having done a heart surgery in the US approximately six years ago. “I was sick; I went and do a surgery in the states, where they took out the heart, fixed it and put it back side; is only about five six years now. All the medication burn up inside, and all my money burn up,” he said.
The source close to the investigation, confirmed that the firemen encountered a number of challenges upon arriving at the scene.
“I can tell you, one of them, is that the bridge was closed and the appliance that comes to back up firefighting, especially large fires in this area, comes from the West Ruimveldt Fire Station. So that appliance could not get across to this location until the bridge reopened. And then there isn’t enough open water around here,” the source said.
He said when the fire tenders arrived, the lower flat of the first building was already engulfed in flames.
In fact, the source said there were two fires at the said premises, however, it was not until the second fire occurred that the occupants alerted the fire service.
“What actually took place is that they had two fires. First when they discovered the first fire, they didn’t call the fire service. When the second fire occurred, by the time the occupants of this house got outside, the entire, downstairs was already in flames. And then, they didn’t place a call, they went themselves to the La Grange Fire Station,” he explained.
He added: “They didn’t call us, they didn’t report anything, they went back to bed. Then between 20 to 30 minutes thereafter, there was another alert of a fire, then they came.”
Investigation into the inferno is ongoing.