Structure fire destroys Whitsunday Shopping Centre
BREAKING: 9.30 PM
THE neighbourhood of Cannonvale was in shock as they watched an inferno destroy a large section of the Whitsunday Shopping Centre tonight.
About 7.30 this evening fire fighters were called to the blaze which is believed to have started in the Target Country store but quickly spread to nearby banks, including Westpac, Commonwealth and ANZ.
The fire also destroyed the popular Marino's Deli.
Tragically this is the second time Marino's has been gutted by fire, with Yvonne and Marino Roberto's family business gutted by fire in the early hours of March 7, 2014. They reopened end of July 2014.
Smoke and fumes filled the car park and small explosions could be heard as the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service battled to keep the fire under control.
Nearby resident Brad Harris said he heard the sirens and came out to see what was going on.
"I could smell it from Beach Road and see the glow," he said.
John Force from the Rural Fire Service in Proserpine was in charge of automated hoses - called ground monitors -pumping the shopping complex with water.
He said at this stage the firefighters' primary objective was to stop the fire spreading to other parts of the shopping complex.
By 9pm it was clear the banks in the complex couldn't be saved.
The fire spread from the rear of the building to the northern side gutting the shops in its wake.
Manager of the Whitsunday Shopping Centre, Theresa Manning was at the scene and was visibly upset by the destruction of her shopping centre.
"It's like a family to me. I am just worried about everybody, worried about the shop owners, just everything," she said.
Queensland Police remain at the scene and say "emergency services have contained the fire to the western side of the shopping complex".
The cause of the fire is not yet known, and police will guard the scene overnight.
Police are appealing to anyone who may have any information in relation to the fire to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.