Fire Devours Shops in Labasa Town

Numerous employees working in offices along the town's main street were sent home as a safety precaution.
30 Aug 2023 13:21
Fire Devours Shops in Labasa Town
A scene of devastation in Labasa Town on August 29, 2023, as firefighters check one of the seven shops that was destroyed in the fire to see that flames have been put out. Photo: Jone Salusalu

Labasa Town came to a standstill yesterday as a devastating fire engulfed seven shops, causing widespread disruption for about three hours.

The blaze, believed to have originated in a restaurant around 10:30am, rapidly escalated into one of the most significant fire incidents the town has witnessed in recent times, resulting in the destruction of seven businesses.

Numerous employees working in offices along the town’s main street were sent home as a safety precaution.

The National Fire Authority (NFA), Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF), Energy Fiji Limited (EFL), and the Fiji Police Force converged at the scene, working tirelessly to control the crowd and secure the fire zone.


Police involvement

Senior Superintendent of Police Kemueli Baledrokadroka, Divisional Police Commander North, was also at the scene and announced that a joint investigation with NFA was underway to determine what started the fire.


Witness accounts

Adi Pasemaca Vuetimacuata, who works at a nearby hair salon, described the sudden onset of the fire:

“It was just about 10.30am, if I recall accurately.

“I was doing my normal routine, my client had just sat down, and all of a sudden everyone in town was rushing and their phones up.

“I asked around and noticed a fire was engulfing the restaurant, and a loud sound started to come.

“We were immediately told to evacuate. I have never experienced such a fire incident. Definitely a sad day for Labasa.”

Another eyewitness, Senimelia Narawai, who was at a pharmacy next to the restaurant at the same time, recounted: “I was inside this pharmacy, and all of a sudden, we smelled something like kerosene.

“Before we knew it, we were part of history.

“The fire was too strong that smoke was seen from a mile.

“And before we know it, the fire was too strong from the restaurant that we had to rush out.”


Grateful restaurant owners

Amidst the destruction of seven neighbouring shops, the eighth – Racheals Cafe Corner – emerged unscathed, serving as a symbol of hope.

Owners Kansami and Patrisha Sandil expressed their gratitude, stating: “Nothing else can describe our thankfulness to the Lord.

“The fire had started to engulf nearby shops, but we were rest assured because we know Jesus has our back, and we also believe in our

NFA fighters.”

They employ more than 10 staff. Doreen Robinson, Labasa Town Council’s special administrator; called on shoppers to exercise caution.

She acknowledged that accidents could occur and emphasised the need to await the results of ongoing investigations to determine how the fire started.

Ms Robinson expressed her concern, saying: “How the properties got burnt is alarming. We need to be more prepared.”

She said the council would investigate, similar to the police and NFA.

NFA has yet to release initial findings regarding the cause o f the fire.



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