Business trashed by fire in FIFTH serious incident
Owners of a popular street food van that was trashed by fire overnight have been left reeling after the latest body blow to their business. Imran Khan and Muzafar Iqbal should be celebrating the one-year anniversary of their Oldham business, Uncle’s Tea Hut, this week. But instead they are facing the possibility of closing altogether after a devastating fire early on Wednesday morning (October 13) gutted their van and the equipment inside – worth GBP30,000.
: Racist who abused neighbours for years, called them ‘scum’ and threatened to attack their children spared jail It’s not the first time Uncle’s Tea Hut has been hit by a brutal setback – it’s not even the first time it has been trashed by fire – but this time it could be a fatal blow for the business. “We’re probably most likely to close the business,” Mr Khan said.
Uncle’s Tea Hut has been trashed in a devastating fire – the latest setback for the young business (Image: STEVE ALLEN)
“We can’t afford it.
The insurance is going up every time. “You can’t sleep at night. You never know what you are going to wake up to.
“A food truck like this shouldn’t need a security guard – it’s a joke to have a guard at a food trailer.” That security guard in question was present in a car when a group of five men entered the site where Uncle’s Tea Hut is based, on Havelock Street. Greater Manchester Police says he was then assaulted by the group.
The business owners say the guard was then rushed to Royal Oldham Hospital after they arrived on the scene long before police became involved.
The business could face closure after the fire (Image: STEVE ALLEN)
Mr Khan says the guard was needed after a string of serious incidents to have damaged the business – with an old truck having been previously gutted by fire at Alexandria Retail Park back on February 14. He says this latest incident is the fifth to rock the business following the first fire, a break-in on June 22 when items were smashed up inside, and attempted arson attacks on July 26 and August 19. Images seen by the Manchester Evening News show destruction caused to the truck on each occasion.
Firefighters were called out to tackle this morning’s blaze at 4.23am. Mr Khan said: “I was in bed and I just got a phone call saying the trailer was on fire. “If we do open back up again, will the same thing happen?”
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GMP says it is still working with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) to establish the cause of the fire – but it that the blaze broke out after the group of five entered the car park on Havelock Street and assaulted the guard. Video footage from the scene shows the devastating blaze that took hold of Uncle’s Tea Hut, and crews from Oldham and Hollins spent more than two hours getting it under control. Despite being just a year old, Uncle’s Tea Hut had built up a strong following – serving treats such as ice creams, milkshakes and donuts, which customers could enjoy in all weathers from the comfort of their own car.
A crowdfunder has been launched by fans of the business to help get it back on its feet. Later in the morning, friends and family of the owners rushed out to support the team as they tried to piece together what had happened earlier on. Munshi Khan, Mr Khan’s father, said: “So many people would come to the Tea Hut, from far away.
It’s beautiful, everyone likes it.
Friends and family were left angered by the blaze (Image: STEVE ALLEN)
“I can’t understand why somebody would do this. It’s all gone – everything.” Another man who came to support the owners, and asked not to be named, told the M.E.N. of his anger at the latest attack.
He said there was plenty of CCTV footage close-by to the incident for police to check – and urged them to find who was responsible. He added: “These guys are earning an honest living, they work so hard and this it the benefit that they reap from it. “[The culprits] knew what they were doing.
People are saying ‘we will find them for you’ – the last thing we want is a turf war.” GMP is now urging members of the public to come forward with any information they have.
Police are urging anyone with information about the fire to come forward (Image: STEVE ALLEN)
A spokesperson for GMP said: “Shortly before 5am this morning (Wednesday, October 13, 2021), police were called to reports of a food van on fire on Havelock Street, Oldham. “Prior to the fire, a male who was guarding the van was assaulted by five men who made off in his car.
“A joint investigation with the fire service is ongoing to establish the cause of the fire. “No injuries have been reported to police at this stage and no arrests have been made yet.” A GMFRS spokesperson added: “We were called at 4.23am this morning.
Two fire engines from Oldham and Hollins attended Havelock Street in Oldham. “Crews used two hose reels, one breathing apparatus and breaking-in gear to extinguish the fire. “One casualty was checked over by firefighters.
“We were there for about two hours and 15 minutes.” Anyone with any information about the attack should contact police on 101, quoting incident number 430 of October 13, 2021. Reports can also be made anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111.
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