On Friday, a man set himself alight inside a in Melbourne’s southeast commonwealth bank just before lunchtime, injuring 26 people in Australia. There were scenes of utter chaos and devastation with an eyewitness saying that he heard a “big blast” and children screaming.
The fire started at 11.30 am with the suspected 21-year-old man blasted off his clothes and ‘skin falling off his legs’. Police said the man entered the bank branch in the Melbourne suburb of Springvale with flammable liquid. Though it was not confirmed but some reports says he doused himself with the accelerant and went up in flames.
Eyewitness Ernie Gonzalez said the man, from Springvale, set himself on fire at the entrance of the bank before running inside and squirting gasoline on the carpet shortly before 11.30am on Friday. Country Fire Authority official Paul Carrigg told reporters there had been an explosion and confirmed that a liquid accelerant was used to start the blaze. A hero tradesman who helped victims escape the blaze said he heard a man arguing with bank tellers moments before the explosion.
Witness Ashley Atkin-Fone grabbed a fire extinguisher from a nearby shop and ran into the bank to try and put out the flames, saying: “What do you do? Instincts just kicked in.”
Fire crews attended the blaze at the Springvale branch within 90 seconds of being called and rescued wounded with minor burns and serious injuries from inside the damaged building. Carrigg said that the doors of the bank were shut when they arrived.
Injured were rushed to the hospital. The suspect is believed to be among the injured and is under police guard at The Alfred hospital. A toddler and several people in their 80s are among the injured. Six of the injured are in critical condition.
Amateur footage taken by a witness and posted to Facebook showed dazed-looking people sitting on the footpath after the explosion, one woman weeping and moaning in pain, as witnesses poured water over people’s injuries. One toddler screamed in pain and panic his hair and face blackened, as his sobbing mother tried to sponge his face clean.
People were carried from the bank on Springvale Road on stretchers, as paramedics and firefighters treated more than a dozen others on the footpath.
Inspector Jacqui Poida said that the motive was not clear and it was too early to tell if it was terror related.
The Commonwealth Bank, Australia’s biggest, said the branch will remain close for the rest of the day, with its response team on site.