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$40M fire at Nagar

By STACY MOORE Friday, April 25 2014

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ALL GONE: $40 million worth in goods, some imported from India, went up in flames when fire believed to be arson destroyed the Indian Festival Expo at...
ALL GONE: $40 million worth in goods, some imported from India, went up in flames when fire believed to be arson destroyed the Indian Festival Expo at...

ARSON is suspected in a fire which destroyed the Indian Festival Expo tent at the Divali Nagar site off the Uriah Butler Highway in Chaguanas, leaving behind losses conservatively put at $40 million. Remnants of a molotov cocktail (a crude homemade incendiary device) were retrieved from the smouldering ruins of the site by investigators.

According to police, the fire started at about 3 am yesterday at the Narsaloo Ramaya Road compound. Over 100 persons are now on the breadline as a result of the fire.

Reports are the fire started behind the compound. An eyewitness reported seeing a man throwing a bottle into the compound before driving off onto the highway. Minutes later flames were seen coming from the tent-like structure.

When Newsday visited the scene yesterday morning merchants and businessmen looked on in dismay including owners of the expo Amit Aladet and Tilak “Papa” Raj, both of India. Speaking to Newsday with a strong Indian accent, Raj said he was in a state of shock.

“I was home when I got the news. I am standing here, telling you I am in shock. But I think this has to be jealousy. Why would someone want to commit such an act,” Raj asked.

The Festival of India Expo first started in Trinidad in 2006. Raj said that he was expecting a bumper year and the expo was opened last month. Days ago, a large shipment of goods comprising dozens of containers of items including fine silks, saris, portraits and jewelry arrived in Trinidad for sale at the various kiosks within the expo.

“Goods which filled 20 containers just went up...just like that. Our entire livelihood went up in flames. This is just not right,” said an emotional Raj.

He said his son who owns and manages the business started from the bottom. “When we first started this expo in Trinidad we started very small and worked very hard. Every year, the business grew. And to stand here and see only ashes...it hurts,” he said through his tears.

“We have rent to pay and what about the other merchants whose goods were destroyed,” he asked. The items sold at the expo consisted of bridal clothing, jewelry, footwear and other items. Raj said that this year exclusive items were brought from India. Officers who visited the scene included Ag Snr Supt Johnny Abraham, Sgt Jitindra Toolaram, PC Mohammed and others. Sgt Toolaram is spearheading investigations.



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