Aba Corporation promises return after devastating fire
BY ALFRED SASAKO
SOLOMON Islands lost a huge part of its commercial history last night, when an early morning fire destroyed the Aba Corporation’s 68-year-old shop and warehouses in Chinatown.
Nothing could be saved as the flames with intense heat quickly spread through the timber structure. Large stocks valued at millions of dollars were destroyed.
Quick action by fire fighters helped stop the fire from spreading to nearby buildings. Marks left by the intense heat could still be seen on brick walls of nearby buildings with blackened windows.
Yesterday only the smouldering remains of the building that once housed the Aba Corporation Business Empire remained. The scene resembled that of a huge explosion. Remains of burnt out can food were strewn all over what was once the entrance to the popular shop.
Island Sun yesterday visited the smouldering remains of the three buildings – two warehouses at the back and the popular shop at the front. It was a sorry sight.
It was a devastating experience for the Aba family, but it may not be the knockout blow as the family has vowed to rebuild.
“We will be back,” a distraught member of the Aba family who wished to remain anonymous, told Island Sun yesterday outside the site where the Aba Corporation once stood.
Three generations of the Aba family once lived here – the parents of their parents, their own parents and the children, now all grown up, but still regarded the building as their family home.
Fire inspectors are expected to start shifting through the ruins today in their search to establish the cause of the fire.
Fire fighters suffered their first setback yesterday, when the fire hydrant in Chinatown was allegedly turned off, according to people who evacuated from nearby buildings in the early hours of yesterday morning.
“The fire tank truck had to travel back to Rove to get water for the three fire engines which fought the flames that had engulfed the building,” a member of a family that lived in a nearby building told Island Sun.
“Fire fighters did a fantastic job, but their efforts were hampered by the fact that the water hydrant in Chinatown was turned off. We merely bundled our kids and drove out from our house because the heat was quite intense,” the man said.
An official from the Solomon Islands Water Authority (SIWA) told Island Sun last night that as far as he knew the fire hydrant near Quan Chee Motors in Chinatown was operating.
Insurance people are also expected to start assessing the damage. Police have cordoned off the area.
The fire which reportedly started around 4am had completely destroyed what the Aba family of three generations had built shortly after the Second World War.
The Aba Corporation building was one of just three timber structures, which survived the destruction of the ethnic tension and the 2006 unrest which destroyed many of the shops in Chinatown.
The other two buildings are the QQQ and Dr Kwan’s building, also in Chinatown. Now that Aba Corporation is gone, there are only two timber structures left.
Some observers said one of the reasons the Aba Corporation stood out amongst the people of Solomon Islands was because while everyone else closed up shops and left during the ethnic tension, Aba Corporation remained open throughout.
“The people of Solomon Islands see Aba Corporation as one of theirs. That is why Aba Store as the company is commonly known throughout Solomon Islands was very popular.
“The destruction of the Chinatown shop is a great loss, not only to the Aba Corporation but also to the businessmen and women and ordinary folks who had come to know the Aba family,” one observer said last night.