Fire destroys Cane Grove supermarket

-arson suspected

The charred remains of the supermarket

A Cane Grove businessman is counting around $40M in losses after his supermarket was destroyed by fire yesterday morning in what is suspected to be a case of arson.

Shivram Itawaru, owner of Congenial Supercenter, located in Cane Grove, Mahaica, told Stabroek News that around 2 am yesterday he was home, about two corners away from his business, with his family when his wife raised an alarm over the fire.

He related to Stabroek News that she told him that his brother had seen smoke and flames coming from the building and they subsequently rushed to the scene.

They arrived on the scene several minutes after they received the call but could do nothing but stand by and watch their two-storey concrete store and all of their goods inside burn. The fire service arrived shortly after and did their best to prevent the fire from spreading to the upper flat and to the other buildings. “They [Guyana Fire Service] reach fast and do what they had to do and we have to thank them for that,” one of Itawaru’s relatives said.

While the origin of the fire is currently unknown, Fire Chief Marlon Gentle told Stabroek News that from initial investigations, the fire appears to be a case of arson since they found combustible liquids and other foreign materials inside the supermarket.

When Stabroek News visited the scene, Itawaru and his family were there assessing his loss, which he stated to be around $40M. The entire bottom floor, which was stacked with goods and beverages, was completely destroyed. The blackened goods were still on the charcoal-like racks and the ground was paved with those that fell while the firefighters were trying to extinguish the fire. “Everything was destroyed, everything. Nothing was saved,” Itawaru lamented.

He explained that the investigators found canisters around the store and on the bread rack. “In addition to the gasoline they found coconut shells, toilet paper all over and they even had rum around the place. I would normally pack the rum on a rack at the back but we see they had bottles all over the place like if they tried to use it to start the fire too,” Itawaru’s wife related yesterday.

One of the windows was also reportedly broken and could have been the point of entry for an arsonist. While there are cameras around the building, Itawaru pointed out that one of them had been turned upwards possibly by the perpetrators in a bid to avoid them being recorded. He also believes that the perpetrators tried to burn the hard-drive with the footage which they are now going to take to a computer store in a bid to retrieve.

Itawaru said that he has no idea why anyone would want to burn down his store that opened its doors some two years ago. However, he explained that he is currently in a dispute over several plots of land with some persons. “I had bought the land along with two others several years ago and there are tenants living at the back and they were supposed to move but they don’t want to. Also, the other lands that I bought some persons are trying to claim it,” he explained.

While the supermarket is opposite the Cane Grove Police Station, Itawaru related that the only thing the police saw were two men loitering around the area about an hour before it went up in flames.

“They told me that all they saw were two persons around and they had chased them away but that’s it. I don’t understand how someone could break into a supermarket, break the glass, knock down the grill and they don’t hear,” he stated.

The neighbours also related that they had seen some men lurking around the supermarket sometime during the middle of the night but didn’t think anything of it since it was right opposite the police station.

“Who would’ve expected that right opposite the station somebody could break into ya store and burn it down. That show you ain’t safe anywhere …,” one of the neighbours said.

Itawaru suffered a major loss and is unsure how he will be able to get back on his feet as he did not insure his goods and has no way of recovering money for the loss.

“The insurance company had given us such a large quotation that we couldn’t at the moment. We were going to wait until we started making a profit because we have only been in business for about two years and then think about the insurance,” the man related.  (Dhanash Ramroop)

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