East Canje businessman dies in fire at furniture complex
Dead: Businessman Ayube Hamid
Dead: Businessman Ayube Hamid

BERBICE businessman Ayube Hamid died when his furniture complex at East Canje, along with two neighbouring homes, was gutted during an early fire yesterday morning.The properties which included Hamid’s Furniture Factory, his storage bond, his home, and a Bedford truck, together valued millions of dollars, went up in flames moments after a worker discovered fire in a paint pail just after 07:30hrs.

Widow Zamila Hamid is comforted by relatives and friends
Widow Zamila Hamid is comforted by relatives and friends

Sixteen persons are now homeless following the tragedy, while twenty factory workers are now on the ‘bread line’.

Incidentally, the 58-year-old Hamid had been owner of the Home Line Furnishing chain stores located at Reliance, East Canje; Chapel Street in New Amsterdam; Rose Hall, Corentyne; and Rosignol Village, West Coast Berbice.

Marlon Bahadur had resumed duty at the factory yesterday. He had worked there before, but had left the employ a few months ago. On arrival at 07:00hrs, he assisted a co-worker by lifting three wardrobes out for delivery.

“Shortly after, a woman came for stain. Popo [Muneshwar Bhopaul] left to go for it. When he returned, he told me there is a fire in the paint pail. I called the big man [referring to Hamid] and told him what was happening. He told us to throw sand. We hurriedly got two half buckets of sand, but that did not extinguish the flames. We were going for a third bucket of sand when the flames became uncontrollable,” Bahadur related.

In the meanwhile, Hamid had descended from the upper flat which housed his home; and on seeing the flames, he returned upstairs, telling his employees that he was going to turn off the main switch and grab his keys.
Hamid was advised not to make the deadly trip, as he was encountering several health challenges; but despite the advice, he mounted the stairs, never to be seen alive again.
His charred remains were discovered in the vicinity of an exit door at 11:20hrs, after the fire had been extinguished.

The recovered cannisters
The recovered cannisters

The fire, fuelled by barrels of flammable substance stored in the adjoining storeroom, and fanned by brisk north-easterly winds, produced intense heat that initially kept onlookers at bay. However, after it was brought under control, the search for the remains of the popular businessman and his wealth commenced. Several canisters and other containers containing cash and valuables were recovered from the scene.
Residents complained bitterly of the tardiness of the Guyana Fire Service team. They claimed that calls to the Central Station in New Amsterdam went unanswered, and a trip to its Vryman’s Erven location revealed ranks playing dominoes. They reportedly were summoned shortly after the fire had been discovered, but did not arrive on scene until after the buildings were engulfed in flames.

Regional Chairman, Mr. David Armogan, accompanied by former parliamentarian Dr. Vishwa Mahadeo, told media operatives he had been told that the Fire Service was not efficient in its delivery.

“The Fire Service was not in preparation mode…. The pump that they have was not starting, as the battery may have run down. If it is so, they should have ensured that the battery was in order. That’s their work! Nobody don’t tell you when a fire will start. If that is the case, then it was a poor performance for the Fire Service.

“Secondly, their response time was a little late. By the time they came here, the neigbour house had caught afire. Based on what the people are saying, I am extremely disappointed in the way the Fire Service reacted to this particular fire.

The charred remains of businessman Ayube Hamid are removed
The charred remains of businessman Ayube Hamid are removed

“I am going to ask that the Ministry of Home Affairs intervene to pay some attention to the Fire Service, and to make sure that these kinds of things don’t happen again. Lots of people tend to blame Government.

“As I go through the crowd, people are saying the Government is at fault, but the Fire Service has to take the blame! They need to be more efficient,” he lamented.

In an invited comment, officer in charge of the Central Fire Station in New Amsterdam, Mr. Patrick Carmichael, dispelled the criticism while noting that a call was received at 7:30hrs and three units responded immediately. Consequently, he said, water was sourced some 250 metres away.

Fire victim Bibi Asha Shamshudeen was contemplating her next move, as she reflected how the home in which she spent her childhood years was destroyed by fire. She had been living with her six children and a granddaughter.

Another victim, Chandrika Bahadur, called Debbie, was inconsolable. The tears of her husband John flowed freely.

Neighbours made numerous attempts to console this family, which has lost everything to the fire.

The fire rages at East Canefield yesterday
The fire rages at East Canefield yesterday

Debbie’s daughter had earlier left for work, and it was the repeated calls of neighbours that smoke was emanating from the next door building that alerted her to the fire. Her family of eight fled their home, leaving everything behind.

A short distance from the scene, the widow Zamila Hamid refused to speak to the fire fighters or the media. Sobbing uncontrollably, the grieving mother of two said she would speak only if her husband were alive.

By Jeune Vankerick

 

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