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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 21 October, 2019
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Plan underway to remove 50 cars which were completely destroyed in a Cork shopping centre blaze

Two levels of the multi-storey car park were engulfed in flames.

Damage caused to vehicles at the shopping centre.
Damage caused to vehicles at the shopping centre.
Image: Cork Fire Brigade

PLANS ARE UNDERWAY to remove almost 200 cars by crane — up to 50 of them completely destroyed — from a multi-storey car park in Cork city after a vehicle went on fire on Saturday leading to a massive blaze which destroyed two levels of the facility.

Bank worker Liz Blacksmith had put her grocery shopping in to the the boot of her vehicle on level one at Douglas Village centre shortly before 7pm on Saturday night when she was made aware of the crisis. 

She was putting her trolley back in the bay when a staff member screamed at her to leave the centre.

“I didn’t know why she was screaming at me and I just looked at her and then I saw all the fire and the thick black smoke. 

“Then all of a sudden when we were walking out another car exploded. Myself and another man were the two last people on the floor to get out. The flames and the black smoke were horrific. 

“The glass doors before you get on to the escalator had automatically shut. We were ushered by another staff member to go in to another room to actually get on to the escalator to get out. 

“There was no panic inside. It was amazing. People were still trying to pay for their shopping. It was surreal.”

Liz said there is great credit due to the staff members for getting all of the shoppers out safety. 

However, she expressed concern that a smoke alarm didn’t go off.

“There was no smoke alarm and no sprinkler. There are an awful lot of questions to be answered. People won’t be able to park so they won’t go there. They will be too afraid to park once the car park is built again in God knows how many months. I don’t know how the fire brigade even managed to get in. There is great credit due to them.”

Keary’s Car dealership in Cork has offered impacted motorists the use of vehicles with no strings attached. Liz may well avail of same and says she is hugely appreciative of the gesture.

Meanwhile, businesses in the centre which were impacted by flooding six years ago that nearly destroyed their livelihoods are now battling to keep the show on the road. 
Sarah Spillane, Manager of Mimosa Flowers, still has to make 70 to 80 corsages for Debs balls this week. She is determined to not let her customers down.

1 cork fire_90578843 Around 50 cars were completely destroyed. Source: Cork Fire Brigade

“I have a wedding to do as well on Wednesday but I was on to the bride and I told her that everything was going to be okay. A woman has offered us her studio to work from over the next few days.  Our fridge is in the centre and we are hoping to get in there as well. Once we get access to a bit of stock we will be able to fulfill our orders.”

Debs are a busy time for the florists and Sarah says they couldn’t possibly leave young girls without their corsages. 

“We don’t want young girls worrying about it. When you have debs or a wedding the last thing you want is to hear there is a problem with the flowers. We are lucky in that we are mobile and can work elsewhere. We have a good team and are going to deliver to all of our customers.”

The fire broke out shortly before 7pm on Saturday. Over 50 fire fighters worked in intense temperatures to contain the blaze. 

Tánaiste Simon Coveney, in a visit to Millstreet, Co Cork, said he was hugely appreciative of the efforts of the fire service and the gardai.

“The immediate response of the fire service in a very confined space and a very difficult location. They did a great job.”

It is not known when the centre will reopen. Manager of Douglas Village, Bartosz Mieszela, says that it would be very difficult for traders to operate without a car park. 

“We only have the multi-storey car park so we don’t have external and multi storey. The car park in relation to the functioning of the centre is critical. There is always options but it is important.”

The multi-storey car park has 1,006 spaces. It is understood that a Opel people carrier was the first car to go on fire with the blaze spreading quickly given the close proximity of vehicles. 

A helpline is in operation for impacted customers who have cars still in the car park. It can be contacted on 087 950 9800.

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Olivia Kelleher

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