Big Fire in Vava'u

A big fire in Neiafu destroyed a number of businesses last week. I'm in the USA and not Tonga at the moment, but thought you might like to see the story below from Matangi Tonga Online.

I know many of the people who owned these businesses and have done work for two of them during my time in Peace Corps.

Neiafu fire photos, courtesy Viliami Muna.

A SECOND big fire to hit Neiafu within a month, destroyed a block of the central shopping area of the small town this afternoon.

Fanned by a breeze the fire spread rapidly through at least eight small businesses on the seaward side of the main street. It is thought that the fire started outside of the buildings on the seafront area.

Neiafu blaze seen from across the harbour. Photo by Jeff Le Strange.

Neiafu's main street a tangle of roofing iron and embers. Photo by Jeff Le Strange.

Destroyed by fire today, a rear view of Neiafu's Bounty Bar (left) and O.G. Sanft Building (right) pictured earlier this year.

The Neiafu fire brigade received the call at 3:18 pm and confirmed that the fire gutted all the buildings from the Teta Tours and Airlines Tonga offices, including the Bounty Bar all the way to the O.G. Sanft Building, but stopped short of the Tonga Development Bank's cement building and a new development next to it that had a cement fire wall in place.

Ketiola Lolohea, of the Neiafu Western Union Office, said that fanned by the wind the fire spread rapidly through the roofs of the old timber buildings and threatened to spread across the road to the new ANZ Bank and her offices but the fire brigade bulldozed a small building on the corner to stop the fire from spreading further.

She said that the O.G. Sanft Building - one of the oldest commercial buildings in Neiafu, as well as an auto parts store, the Guttenbeil handicrafts shop and nightclub, the Friendly Islands Bookshop, Kelly's Store, Lita Store, the Bounty Bar, Airlines Tonga, and Samiu Vaipulu's offices were destroyed.

Other businesses destroyed were Arnotts wine and Digicel cards store, Grey's Bottle Store. Salesi Paea's bar as well as the Kalia Bar and the Otu Moi Plumbing Store.

"The police got everyone out of the buildings so no-one was hurt," said Ketiola.

The fire appeared to have spread from the direction of the O.G. Sanft Bldg. and Guttenbeils' shops.

Earlier, on November 13 a fire destroyed the administration and entertainment block of Neiafu's Paradise Hotel.

Fire destroys the buildings opposite the ANZ Bank at right was

Firemen extinguish the fire in Neiafu.

A crowd gathers on Neiafu's Hala Fatafehi with Tonga Development Bank visible in the distance.

Pictured left, with green roofs, the row of small shops that were gutted formed a large part of the Neiafu business centre.

Neiafu's main street with Bounty Bar at the right.

Copyright © Vava'u Press Ltd. 2005. Permissions apply or fax (676) 24749

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