Eight people sustained injuries after a fire resulting from an explosion at Leopard Match (2018) Limited at Ginnery Corner in Blantyre razed to rubble warehouses and a neighbouring factory.
During a visit minutes after the incident, it was noted that the fire mostly damaged a warehouse at Leopard Match while at the adjacent Engineering and Foundary Works, where a division of Eshani Products Limited is also located, the warehouse and factory were damaged.
Workers from the two companies were seen desperately rescuing property as the fire spread to other sections. In the process, some officials could not help it, but shed tears in disbelief.
Eye witness Eric Silika, a temporary worker at Leopard Match, said the fire started from the company’s stores office.
He said employees attempted to put out the fire on their own, but failed due to the explosion that happened about 15 minutes later.
“My colleague was hit by an object while my boss lost consciousness because of the explosion. We took them outside the office and as I am speaking my friend has been rushed to Queens [Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital].
Blantyre City Council (BCC) fire brigade arrived at the scene about 30 minutes later, but the fire was so extensive as it had already spread all-over the two manufacturing companies located along Ali Hassan Mwinyi Road.
Minutes later, a privately-owned fire engine from Kabula Industrial Safety Specialists joined the efforts to put out the fire and two more fire engines from Chileka International Airport and Nacala Logistics as well as Malawi Police Service water cannon also came in.
The fire, which started around 8am, was finally extinguished around 2pm, but after it had caused extensive damage in the two companies.
When asked on the extent of the damage, Eshani Products director Muhammed Raidhan asked for more time before giving details on the matter.
He said: “What matters is life. We thank Allah [God] that no one has lost a life. But on the damages, please give us time. Our tempers are high please understand us.”
In a separate interview, Leopard Match factory supervisor Fluton Kamanga said the company is yet to assess the damages.
He said the fire accident is a big loss to both the company and its employees as well as families of about 130 employees will be affected.
Said Kamanga: “This is worrisome because around 2019 parts of the company also caught fire. It means the company has not yet started making profit.”
In a telephone interview around 4pm on Monday, QECH director Samson Mndolo said they had received eight victims from the accident, among them six men and two women.
He said seven were treated as outpatients while one person has been admitted to the hospital.
BCC chief fire officer Prescort Sailasi said the council is still investigating the cause of the fire.
He bemoaned Leopard Match (2018) Limited’s delay to report the fire, saying it contributed to the extensive damage.
Said Sailasi: “When we came in, the fire was just big because these guys were trying to put it out on their own and when they failed it’s when they called us.”
In 2019, Leopard Match (2018) Limited also caught fire which destroyed property valued in millions of kwacha.