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Damage estimated to run into millions of rands was caused when two major chain stores were gutted in a midnight inferno at the Daveyton Mall in Ekurhuleni on Monday.
Police spokesman Sergeant Ramothaki Maqabe said the fire, which destroyed Pep Stores and Ackermans branches at the shopping mall, was noticed by the security guards at around midnight on Monday.
"It is believed that the fire may have started in the ceiling of Pep Stores and spread to Ackermans," said Maqabe.
"We do not know yet what caused the fire."
The store's divisional manager, Theo Wentzel, estimated the loss at R2,5million.
"This is a big loss for Pep," Wentzel said.
He said though Pep experienced such fires from time to time, this was one of the biggest in his region.
When Sowetan arrived at the scene, the fire was still burning five hours later.
There was a thick cloud of smoke hanging at the mall's entrance.
Ekurhuleni Emergency Services' eastern region district manager Agnes Makwane said: "Seven fire engines drawn from surrounding areas including Edenvale, Brakpan, Springs, Nigel, Etwatwa and Daveyton were brought in to help fight the fire.
"Despite the strong wind, we can proudly say that we have managed to stop the fire from spreading to other stores."
Shop owners and workers were barred from entering the premises because police were still combing the area for clues.
A businessman whose shop was not affected, said the temporary closure of their businesses would affect his business and others.
"I may need to speak to my insurance about this. I suspect we are going to lose a lot of money," Ashraf Hajit told Sowetan.