PROPERTY worth thousands of dollars was destroyed when two fuel tankers were burnt at a Redan Fuel Service Station at the corner of Five Avenue and Main Street in Bulawayo yesterday afternoon.
Report by Nduduzo Tshuma
The fire attracted thousands of people who gathered after hearing explosions caused by the inferno.
Police moved in to control the crowds led by Bulawayo police commander Senior Assistant Commissioner Steven Mutamba.
Different versions were given by witnesses on the cause of the fire with some saying it was ignited by two welders who were working at the garage while fuel was being poured into the underground tank.
But the welders said they had finished welding at the time the fire started, saying it was caused by a device used to drain the fuel from the truck.
One of the welders, who only identified himself as Blessed, said they had been hired to weld some metal over a small canal at the garage.
“We had finished welding when the device used for draining the fuel from the tanker to the underground tank broke, the fuel then streamed down that small trench until it got to hot metal that had just been welded,” one of the men told NewsDay.
“When the fire started we moved quickly and fled to safety and I don’t think anyone was hurt.”
However, another witness said the fire started while the two were welding at the service station.
“The fire started when two men were welding at the station while fuel was being drained from the vehicle to the underground tank, the fuel fumes must have come into contact with the spark causing the fire,” the witness said.
The fire destroyed a T35 truck parked next to the service station.
There was chaos when traders at the neighbouring Unity Village flea market started moving their wares to safety oblivious to the dangers of the fire. It took the firefighters almost two hours to contain the ravaging fire and more time to cool the tankers.
At the time of going to print, Bulawayo chief fire officer Richard Peterson said he was still compiling information in a bid to establish the possible cause of the fire.
Meanwhile, this reporter and NewsDay photographer Resta Nyamwanza where beaten up by a female police inspector while covering the fire.
Asked why she was beating up the reporter, the police officer warned the journalists to expect harsher treatment if police dogs were brought to the scene.