Arson suspected in major Pettah blaze

By Franklin R. Satyapalan

Police are probing whether the blaze which destroyed around 100 shops at Bodhiraja Mawatha in Pettah on Friday night was an act of arson.

The row of shops had been well stocked for the festive season. The fire, which broke out around 7.30 pm, gutted all the business establishments.

"They were all reduced to ashes", a police officials said.

Secretary of the Federation of Self-Employed, Chanaka Hettiarachchi said there were suspicions about the cause of the fire.

"We hope to bring this matter to the notice of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and seek relief to those affected", he noted.

Some of the shops sold CDs, textiles, plastic goods and numerous other items. The shop keepers said they had been doing business at this location for over two decades, but it had been a struggle as there were moves to evict them.

"We have pawned our valuables and even taken money on high interest so that we can have adequate stocks during the festive season. We have now lost everything and left penniless on the streets", they said.

They said they have appealed to Mayor M. J. M. Muzzamil to intervene on our behalf and provide alternative arrangements to resume their business.

The chief of Colombo Fire Brigade, Rohitha Fernando said that though his men had rushed to the scene, they had been able to control the fire which had spread swiftly.

Fireman A. D. Jayatissa said the control room had received a message at 7.53 pm from PC Palitha attached to the Pettah police station.

As there were a lot of inflammable material such as CDs, textiles and plastic items, fire raged fiercely, he said.

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