Baffled at two recent fires at Gafoor’s Industries’ Houston, East Bank Demerara that resulted in almost US$20 million dollars in losses, management has already decided its next move if there is third blaze.
Managing Director, Sattaur Gafoor declined to divulge the decision. He said one of the major concerns in the aftermath of the second fire is whether the insurance companies would be willing to continue providing coverage.
“It is difficult to operate in a situation that you don’t know what will happen,” he said. In the first fire in May of this year, the company estimated that it lost US$12 million in the buildings and stocks and in the second incident, the buildings valued US$2 million and US$2 million in stocks went up in flames.
Insisting that except for a small quantity of paint that was being used to paint the newly-constructed bond, Gafoor reiterated that there were no combustible materials in the building that was burnt Monday evening. He did not offer a theory about the cause of the fire but noted that the last blaze occurred one day after the bond was completed on October 9 and 52 containers of stocks had arrived.
The top official of the company ruled out being well-stocked for Christmas because it takes several months for hardware items to be procured.
Mr. Gafoor, accompanied by senior officials of the company and Head of P&P Insurers, Bish Panday, announced that one local investigator and another from the United States have been hired to probe the circumstances surrounding the second fire. The debris has not been cleared and would most likely be watched by an armed guard.
He shrugged off suggestions that the fire might have been an inside job, saying “we have too much to lose, too much at stake.” He said the company has always paid its taxes, honest to its 987 workers and committed to Guyana “We avoid confrontation with anybody. We try to keep out of trouble,” he said.
Mr. Gafoor said that after the first fire, he implemented all of the recommendations by the Guyana Fire Service and an expert from the United Kingdom including a ring-fence emergency water supply system that was fitted with a pressure pump. The recommendations also included not less than 25 percent of corrugated pipes for the ceiling, wind turbines/extractor fans, and air ventilation.
After the first fire, Gafoor said that in order to stay in the market his company even bought stocks locally at higher prices, even as competitors had hiked their prices the day after the inferno. “We had to buy in order to service our customers,” he said. “Had it not been for the sympathy and support, I don’t know where our business would have been,” he added.
He said the blaze in May, which was the first in the more than 60-year existence of the company, destroyed all of the entity’s records, a library and historical photos with former American President, Jimmy Carter and former world boxing champion, Muhammad Ali.