Survivor claims staff error caused fire

Published on 30/01/2009

By Morton Saulo

One of the survivors of Nakumatt tragedy claims an error by an employee could have caused the inferno.

Mr John Harraiyah says the employee opened the lid of a petrol generator that had been put on after lights went out.

The 29 year-old baker from Eastlands told The Standard on Saturday he was shopping for hand gloves when all hell broke loose

He said the generator started billowing smoke few minutes later.

“I was going downstairs when I saw the generator billowing thick black smoke. Then it did not appear that a tragedy was in the offing,” he says.

Harraiyah said the generator was at a corner surrounded by bundles of flour next to a door leading to an exit he presumed led to the main store.

“While at the stairs, I saw a Nakumatt employee in a blue overall coat bend over the smoking generator and open the lid,” he says.

That’s when hell broke loose.

“I heard a loud explosion from the generator and the Nakumatt staff was thrown several metres away from the generator,” he says.

By then, he says, parts of the supermarket were already on fire.

“I headed for the door but a Nakumatt staff held my hand. He demanded to know why I was running out,” he told The Standard on Saturday when he visited our offices, yesterday.

“I told him ‘ the supermarket is on fire can’t you see’ as I struggled to reach the door,” he says.

He claims Nakumatt staff had already closed the doors to prevent people from going out. At that time, he says, shoppers who were on the first floor were already milling at the door.

” This showed the staff the urgency of leaving the shop,” he says.

Soon after, shoppers in the lower floor followed suit using the exit door but the entrance one was locked from inside.

“It was human error, I insist since I believe if the employee did not open the generator lid then, the fire could have been contained,” he said.

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