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Hundreds make off with store goods in Lae

By Oseah Philemon PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Aug. 31, 2010) - Two Lae shops were ransacked in mob looting as a neighboring shop was gutted by early morning fire yesterday.

The building housed Super Store and Hamamas Kai Bar with a second hand clothing shop upstairs.

Hundreds of opportunists from nearby settlements and the city suburbs took advantage of the fire and forced open the door to Lotus Enterprises Limited shop next to the burning shop and emptied it of all goods.

The mob also forced open the front door of the next shop owned by P.C & J.Y. Woo and did likewise, walking away with everything inside the shop.

Owners of the shop said they were lost for words to describe what happened to their business.

The shop is owned by Lae Chinese businessman Ben Woo, who is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG and played a big role in organizing the church’s synod early this year.

Mr. Woo was treasurer of the organizing committee.

Hundreds of people - both men and women - walked and ran away with hundreds of store goods they took from the shop.

One man was even seen running from the scene with a handful of women’s sanitary napkins.

The looters tried to break into the nearby Raumai Wholesale shop but police were quick on the scene and chased them away.

Police were outnumbered as most of their task force and riot police members are in Bulolo attending to the crisis in the former mining town.

Workmen were also later seen repairing the entrance to the Raumai 18 shop.

Fire blackened part of the wall of the nearby new Raumai 18 supermarket but it was saved from the blaze.

Witnesses told the Post-Courier they believed the fire started around 4:30 a.m. or 5 a.m.

By daybreak the front and back of the shopping area which extends from the Andersons supermarket to Pelgens and Papindo supermarkets were under siege as hundreds of opportunists from nearby settlements and around the city flocked to the scene.

As the fire raged on, opportunists braved the heat to break into the nearby shops of Lotus Enterprises and P.C. & J.Y. Woo shops and looted everything inside.

Witnesses saw men emerge from the shops with all kinds of store goods from drinks to food, mattresses, pots, clothing, sewing machines, clothing material and many more items.

The looters opened cans of soft drinks and beer and were drinking openly on the nearby football park as the looting continued.

A lone fire truck arrived at the scene but could not do much as the blaze had already engulfed the building.

Looters fought with guards at the back of the shop as police fired tear gas to disperse those at the Eriku bus stop who were trying to enter shops and loot them. People ran as tear gas was fired but were soon back again, pelting Guard Dog Security vans with rocks. All around the city people walked home with the looted goods.

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