By Shikema Dey
From law offices, clothing stores, electronic stores; salons and cafes, Sharon’s Mall on the corner of King and Charlotte Streets, Georgetown housed it all.
Those establishments were all destroyed when the mall went up in flames on Wednesday evening at around 19:30 hrs.
Business owners returned to the scene on Thursday morning to assess their losses and to get a glimpse of what was left; merely burnt steel and a soaked building.
The losses suffered by each are estimated in the millions and many shared the view that more could have been done by the Guyana Fire Service to save the building.
Explaining her version of the events was Justice of Peace, Carol Sooba; she was housed on the third floor.
“We were working on a new computer in Mr Todd’s office when Quincy, the person who looks after the building, came and say ‘y’all get out, fire in the building.’
“All I could have done was scramble my bag and the laptop and run downstairs and when we ran down, the place was very hazy from the second floor close to the elevator.”
According to Sooba, most of the lawyers on her floor did not manage to salvage anything from the fire.
“When they come, it was only a streak of smoke and they said they got it under control but it got out of hand.
“I commend them for containing the fire to this building but however, the lack of expertise to deal with such a fire caused the entire building to be destroyed.”
Adrian Lam, who owned an Accounting Office in the building, relayed to the News Room that all of his critical documents were destroyed.
“You come to work one morning with your staff and in the space of couple hours, your business is destroyed. It is difficult but you gotta find a way to move on.”
He said: “I wish the Fire Service did more because I spoke to the guys before and they said they have it under control, ‘not to worry, it would not go further than the smoke.’ But then you heard the explosion and the whole place on fire,” the distraught Accountant added.
Another business owner, Andrew Gaijan, who operated three clothing stores in the bottom flat of the building, told the News Room that they had recently unpacked five containers laden with new items into the stores.
Those were all destroyed.
“I can’t tell you how much I lose because we put in five containers of goods, we load up because of the pandemic. We got nearly 30 workers, what they gon do now?”
‘Everything under control’
According to the caretaker of the building, Quincy, it was around 17:00hrs when a tenant informed him that smoke was coming from the vents on the second floor.
“I ran up to check and saw the smoke and then I immediately ran to the third floor to check if smoke was there but I didn’t see anything.”
According to Quincy, he then rushed to switch off the main breakers to the building and raised an alarm for persons to evacuate. Fire tenders were summoned to the scene and he said: “in a space of four minutes, they arrived.”
“I show them where the smoke was coming from and I contacted my boss and one of the Commander’s on the scene told him [my boss] everything was under control.”
But according to Quincy, this was far from reality.
“I don’t know what they was doing, they said they get it under control. There was no fire. They said they got it under control. They could have break the ceiling because it was sheetrock. God in heaven know what they were doing up there.”
Meanwhile, the Fire Chief, Kalamadeen Edoo, told the News Room that the smoke was too much and prevented firefighters from locating the source. He also noted that firefighters were presented with a situation whereby they could not properly search the building because most of the businesses were grilled.
The cause of the fire is believed to be electrical in nature.