by Scot Waide – EM TV News, Lae
Another building housing six shops in Lae city was completely gutted by a fire late last night.
The fire began just after 9pm at Downtown Wholesale, and within three hours destroyed the entire building.
This is the latest in a string of fires that began in 2012.
The downtown wholesale is a collection of shops owned by a Papua New Guinean businessman and operated by various foreign, predominantly Chinese, traders.
The building also houses living quarters for those traders.
Security guards noticed smoke coming out of the end of the building last night. They then banged on the doors to alert the shop owners of the situation.
“We had to break down the doors to pull out the Chinese,” said David Leo, a worker who was there last night.
“When we went in, the smoke was coming out and it was difficult to see.”
This morning, security guards watched over the smoldering ruins as the other neighbouring shops opened for business.
Two months ago, a Chinese woman died in a fire that destroyed a shop at Lae’s main market.
Since last year there have been a total of seven major fires all within Lae’s commercial zones.
Fire safety has become a major issue of concern since 2012.
Accoding to the Papua New Guinea Fire Service, Lae City needs at least four fire stations. However, despite government attention, progress towards getting those fire stations built has been painstakingly slow.