“The most tangible of all visible mysteries – fire.” Leigh Hunt
Sunday 23rd September 2012 was a terrible day for local businesses – an horrific blaze at the Portimão retail park left 7 large business premises destroyed – and more than 300 people concerned for their future employment.
We have watched and read about this with shocked expressions – and disbelief that this could possibly have happened – and that the shops that we have used every week for our local shopping are no longer there.
It has taken us a week to be able to go over to the site and have a look – although it is still barricaded off from the public, with a strong police presence – but the overwhelming destruction of the buildings is visible to all:
The Continente supermarket, Decathlon, AKI, De Borla, Staples, Radio Popular, and furniture store Moviflor were all completely destroyed in the blaze which started in the early hours of the Sunday morning and continued raging until about 7.30am – although it is believed that it continued burning for about 48 hours.
The outcome of such a catastrophic fire is now clear, with all seven stores destroyed and the rear of the premises have been decimated to rubble and twisted metal:
It would appear that some – if not all – of the stores have already expressed their desire to re-build – and certainly Staples and Continente appear to have already redistributed their staff to other stores.
We travelled all the way to Faro this week to source some supplies at the only other Staples store on the Algarve, and it was nice to see staff we knew working there – they confirmed that they have all relocated to the store ‘indefinitely’ until things are sorted out. Their website is also offering delivery whilst the store is out of action – unfortunately not all of the in-store stock is available online.
We also shopped today at the other Continente store in Portimão; and we had staff from the destroyed store coming bounding up to us and looking so pleased to see us! We have made many ‘friends’ at our local store over the last few years and we were so worried about them – so we hope that they have all been ‘re-housed’ – especially our dear friend ‘Top Doris’ (you know who you are!)
More worrying are the stores that do not have a natural ‘other home’ to relocate staff to – I do not know what has happened to them – hopefully our local papers will update us over the coming days.
The Police are investigating the blaze – but the obvious question that is being asked is ‘how did this fire spread so rapidly to the other stores?’ and with such devastating effect. News reports have indicated that the blaze started in the De Borla store – with a possible electrical fault being the cause … but you have to ask questions about the overall structure and build of the premises, which were all joined together in a line. Presumably they did not have any fire retardant walls separating each premises?
Thank goodness this happened at night – when the premises were all empty – and no-one was hurt. It doesn’t bear thinking about what might have happened if this had occurred during the day. The food court, car repair garage and petrol station were all saved – but the site is obviously closed to the public, which means more small businesses are going to be struggling. Our thoughts go out to everyone who has been affected by this tragic event.