A shopping mall in the most exclusive Uruguayan beach resort of Punta del Este caught fire Saturday in what Interior Minister Luis Alberto Heber dubbed “a disgrace.”
Several stores as part of the roof and walls collapsed, but no injuries were reported.
According to first-responders, fire has already taken the entire basement and the first floor. The fire started early Saturday morning in a bakery and worsened Sunday morning causing structural damage.
Heber rushed to the scene to give support to the firemen whom he asked not to do anything crazy in order to contain the fire.
Firefighters worked all Saturday in the Tienda Inglesa warehouse by cooling with pressurized water and trying to ventilate the place, despite which the flames spread onto the mall.
What played a preponderant role were the ventilation ducts and the collapse of the slab due to the abundant concentration of heat, which caused the ventilation to fail and the fire to spread to unforeseen areas, National Firefighters Director Ricardo Riaño said in a TV interview.
Tienda Inglesa is lost, Heber explained regarding the supermarket where the fire originated in the bakery area. ”It's a disaster. A huge loss: a lot of food, a lot of material (...) I come to support the firefighters who are risking their lives. They should not do anything crazy to contain the fire. There is a high fuel content inside with the merchandise that is very difficult to stop, the minister stressed.
Heber also said no injuries had been reported. He also regretted the loss of jobs for the many people who work at the mall and said that there will be special insurances.
Riaño also explained that the fire Saturday was confined to the supermarket warehouse, a space in the basement of about 4,000 square meters, but Sunday morning there was a violent spread of fire.
By Sunday afternoon, firefighters were focusing on cutting the flames from reaching the stores and extinguishing the fire that still affected the premises. It is a very slow, very arduous work, and with a risk for the personnel as they are exposed to a structural collapse, the Chief Firefighter explained.
When asked if the fire was under control, the head of the Fire Department preferred not to rush into conclusions. We have measurements from thermal cameras that show more than 100 degrees of temperature and abundant concentration of smoke. Access is very difficult and we are working with respiratory equipment. The work is slow, he said.
Riaño also explained that the explosions heard at the scene stemmed from flammable products available at the store. It is normal, he said.
Maldonado Mayor Enrique Antía also showed up at the mall and regretted that after two years of pandemic restrictions, this situation would affect some 2,000 workers who had jobs at the mall in addition to 500 others linked indirectly to the commercial activities there.
It is a bad moment for Maldonado, a big blow,” Antía lamented.