On my quick walk to the weekly market, I met our cleaning lady, who immediately said: "It's 'douffe' today, isn't it? There is a thunderstorm brewing." I couldn't have agreed more. And yes, some fourteen hours later, in the middle of the night, I woke up to the sound and sight of thunder and lightning. I closed all my windows and tried to fall asleep again, counting the time between the light flashes and the drum-rolls. The storm seemed to move away. But it did so with a terrific bang that shook the window panes! Hardly fifteen minutes later I heard a fire engine making its way down the road.
Before falling asleep, I thought of the fire engine's destination, hoping nobody got hurt and that damage would we just superficial.
By Friday lunch time, I knew that I had been wrong. When driving up to our local supermarket, I found the parking lot partially blocked by a large red fire engine. The men were just about to roll-up the hoses. At first I thought there had been some flooding and that they had had the pumps out to evacuate the water. But then I saw the blackened wall of the flats overlooking the supermarket's warehouse. It took several minutes to take in the full scene and to realize how devastating the fire had been. Only the outer walls of the warehouse were still standing. The three flats on the left and the right had broken windows and the roof of another house had collapsed.
I wonder whether the storm caused this?
I left my car in the parking lot and walked to the main road which is just around the corner. There was small crowd overlooking the damage. I heard one man saying that it had started at half past one in the morning and that the people from the flats had been evacuated and taken to a bus, where they could shelter from the rain. Later they were taken to the community centre where they spent the rest of the night. Fire fighters from three nearby towns spent all night trying to control and put out the fire, which was almost impossible because it was completely closed in by the buildings around the warehouse.
Later I had lunch with a friend at our favourite Italian restaurant. One of the waiters who lives at a stone's throw of the fire scene, showed us a photo which he had taken with his smartphone of what it had looked like at two in the morning. It was horrendous. You couldn't distinguish any buildings or even flames. It was just one big angry ball of red and orange.
As a result of the fire, three flats and the pet shop which is located on the ground floor will probably be torn down. The supermarket's warehouse is a total loss too. The supermarket itself has been spared thanks to the fire-proof doors between the warehouse and the store.
I feel so sorry for the people from the pet store who only recently had the three flats with all modern comfort built over the shop. They've lost everything: their shop and the income from the rent. I hope insurance will be kind on them and that they will get over the emotional trauma.