Drugstore owner to carry on after blaze

  • Pharmacy blaze: A section of roof collapses as firefighters battle a blaze at Robertson's Pharmacy in St George's. (Photograph supplied)
  • A fire broke out at Robertson's Drug Store in St George's this morning (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • A fire broke out at Robertson's Drug Store in St George's this morning (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • A fire broke out at Robertson's Drug Store in St George's this morning (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The co-owner of a St George’s pharmacy gutted by a blaze has vowed to pick up the pieces of the business and carry on.

Garth Rothwell, a former Mayor of St George, said: “Obviously, it’s a big disappointment — it happened and we wish it hadn’t happened.”

Mr Rothwell, who owns Robertson’s Drugstore with four sisters, added: “We’re getting together tomorrow — it depends on what we find.

“We will probably have to relocate for a while and refurbish the building and get back in as soon as we can.”

The drugstore, founded by Mr Rothwell’s grandfather, Freddy Robertson, has been in the family for nearly 100 years.

Mr Rothwell said: “The building is pretty badly damaged — the roof has gone and all of the upstairs has been gutted.

“But we have a concrete floor, so we just have to wait until we get into it to see the extent of the damage.”

And he added: “We will sort it out — we’re a tough lot.”

Mr Rothwell said the cause of the fire, which appeared to start on the upper floor, was being probed by fire service experts.

He added: “We don’t know for sure, but the smoke initially seemed to come from the air conditioner and that was the bit that was on fire.

“We feel that’s where it originated, but it’s early days yet.”

He was speaking after smoke was seen coming from the building just before noon today.

Firefighters fought to contain the blaze, but the fire caused the building’s roof to collapse and threatened nearby buildings.

New Progressive Labour Party MP for the area Renee Ming said she was “deeply saddened” over news of the blaze and offered “greatest sympathies” and support to the Rothwells and their staff.

Ms Ming, who is off the island, added: “For us St. Georgians, the drugstore is a staple of the St. George’s community as it is the only drugstore that many St. Georgians have ever utilised.

“While the property damage is a tough pill to swallow, I think I speak for all when I say human loss would be more tragic and we can only be grateful that no injuries were sustained.”

Police this afternoon closed off the area around the Water Street building.

Officers acted after firefighters had battled the blaze since around noon.

The roof of the building collapsed and a police spokesman said “it appears the fire is spreading to adjacent buildings.”

He added: “The Bermuda Police Service is asking for the public to avoid the area around Robertson’s pharmacy.

“It is a very active scene and the area is closed to vehicular traffic and pedestrian traffic.”

The spokesman said that onlookers were hindering emergency operations.

He added: “Please avoid this area until further notice.”

Traffic police diverted traffic away from the area.

And the police spokesman said: “Persons living and working in the area should expect some delays and inconvenience.”

A Fire Service spokeswoman said they were alerted to the fire by an alarm system and calls from the public at around 11.50am.

She added: “On arrival we found flames emitting from an air conditioning unit and thick black smoke erupting from multiple windows and eaves surrounding the upper level of the building.”

The spokeswoman at the time advised the public to use caution on York Street and the surrounding area as crews worked to put out the fire.

She added: “There are no injuries at this time. An investigation into the fire will commence once firefighters have completely extinguished the fire.”

It is the second time the pharmacy has been hit by fire.

Robertson’s was destroyed almost exactly 40 years ago in a blaze in April, 1977.