Fire guts St. Catherine’s hall
A fire that has been called suspicious by authorities gutted the community hall of St. Catherine’s Greek Orthodox church in East Malvern last week. The blaze was sparked at around 3:00am on Thursday and, in a matter of a few minutes, it had engulfed the weatherboard construction.
The prompt response of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) saved the adjacent church and homes. The head of the fire crew responding to the fire said to Neos Kosmos that “the fire spread in the building very fast and within a few minutes the roof collapsed.
After that we focused our efforts in saving the church and the adjacent home. We managed to save both. If the fire had spread to the church it would have been very difficult to save it.”
The priest at St. Catherine's , Andreas Papadimitropoulos, underscored the successful effort of the MFB to contain the fire. “We are grateful to the Fire Brigade for their prompt response. The fire started heading towards the church but it was successfully battled by the fire crew.”
The owner of the adjacent house also expressed his gratitude to the MFB personnel.
“I was woken from the noise of the collapsing roof,” he said to Neos Kosmos. “But I didn’t immediately realize that the adjacent building to my house was on fire.
"I realised it when the flames started lighting up my house. I ran outside, grabbed my hose and started watering my walls.
"Meanwhile, the Fire Brigade arrived and protected my home from the flames but my shed, my childrens’ toys and part of my roof had been burnt.
"But I’m very lucky for two reasons: Firstly because the Fire Brigade responded within minutes and secondly because my wife and children are away for the school holidays.
"Otherwise, if they had been in the house they could have been injured from the broken glass of the windows that fell on their beds due to the extreme heat.”
Bishop Ezekiel of Dervis also visited the sight of the fire’s aftermath. “It is remarkable, the hall has been completely destroyed but with the help of God the church was spared and the parishioners will not miss out on their church services for the upcoming holy days of Easter,” he said.
The parishioners were expressing their disbelief at the destruction but were stating their determination to rebuild. The hall - besides housing the social functions of the parishioners and the wider community - was also housing the needs of the church’s Greek school.
The police and MFB investigators revealed to Neos Kosmos that the fire was deemed suspicious. The suspicions of foul play were further enhanced by the statements of eyewitnesses that minutes before the blaze started, a nearby rubbish bin was set on fire.
The St. Catherine parish announced that the Greek school will continue its operation utilising the facilities of one of the nearby state schools.
Parents and students will be notified in due course regarding these arrangements.
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