Disasters & Accidents

Scene of Paraguay supermarket fire disaster becomes a memorial

Asunción, Aug 1 (EFE).- What was the Ycuá Bolaños supermarket in Asunción, where some 364 people died in 2004 due to a huge fire, reopened its doors 18 years later on Monday as a memorial to the victims of one of the greatest tragedies in Paraguay.

Family, friends and authorities arrived as every year to pay tribute to the dead, injured and missing, but also to celebrate life, especially of those who miraculously survived.

With photographs, flowers and candles, family, friends and acquaintances reminded supermarket workers and hundreds of shoppers of the tragedy that occurred on Aug. 1, 2004.

Songs, prayers and discussions between relatives took place Monday in that spot and the sirens of several fire trucks were sounded at 11.20 am – the time the fire broke out.

Liz Torres tearfully hugged her little grandson. She survived that fateful day when she was 37 years old, along with her husband. Today she is part of the Coordinator of Victims, Relatives and Friends of Ycuá Bolaños.

“The only thing we thought about was running,” she told EFE, recalling how the sound of bottles falling from a shelf preceded an explosion followed by a wave of flames that ripped across the roof of the food court.

The fire in the supermarket, located in the Trinidad neighborhood of Asunción, originated in the grill of a restaurant in the establishment, due to lack of maintenance, according to the investigation, which also showed that the supermarket’s doors had been ordered closed to prevent theft.

Torres was trapped along with some 500 people trying to flee the flames while a human wall formed in front of the closed exit.

“I thought we were too young to die,” added Torres, for whom the anguish was greatest when thinking of her children, then 12 and 14 years old and who did not go to the supermarket that day.

Since the tragedy, she has celebrated life.

“I am the life of others, I am the life of those who covered my body at that moment,” she said.

For her, the memorial inaugurated five years after its construction began is a “small” achievement – it is a community space that will ensure that the victims are not relegated to just numbers or statistics.

Also attending the ceremony was Martina Ibarrola, who lost her daughter, Liliana Beatriz Rodríguez, then a 24-year-old supermarket cashier.

Hugging her daughter’s portrait, she greeted and hugged several of those gathered and recalled that the death of her daughter occurred on the same day as the ninth anniversary of the death of her husband.

“I had to take out my husband’s entire altar to put her in the house,” she said.

“It seems as if I buried my daughter yesterday,” she added as she recalled the anguished search she undertook, first among the wounded and finally among the dead, before confirming her greatest fear.

And along with the attendees, including a young woman who at just five years old was left without her father and her uncle who had gone to buy ingredients for a family barbecue, was Liduvino Escurra.

Then 23 years old, he was one of the first firefighters to arrive at the fire.

“You have to value life a little bit. Be that as it may, the family always comes first. It would not be bad to hug your family every day,” advises the man who was left speechless when remembering the fire, in which coroners identified 364 deceased, although some calculations raise the dead to up to 400. Hundreds more were injured. EFE


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