Belfast Telegraph

Crowdfunding raises £5,000 after Belfast Crystal factory destroyed by fire

More than £5,000 has been donated to a factory-owner whose business burned to the ground in West Belfast.

Tony Abbate was left without even a chair to sit on in the blackened shell of what was the Belfast Crystal manufacturer.

Police are treating the catastrophic blaze as suspicious.

A GoFundMe crowdfunding webpage has seen well-wishers rally round, pledging £5,610 in just four days.

Mr Abbate said: " I cannot express the sincere gratitude to everyone who has donated to this appeal. From people we know and lots of people we don't, it has touched me so much."

The money will help towards the purchase of a piece of machinery that will help bring back a part-time colleague as they begin a massive clean-up operation.

Mr Abbate added: "It has been so hard trying to clear the rubble and destruction and, more importantly, salvage some stock to sell."

The firm, at the Kennedy Way industrial estate in the west of the city, was engulfed in flames on Saturday night as 40 firefighters battled to save it.

A nearby shopping centre was evacuated as the blaze threatened neighbouring buildings.

The father of a three-year-old daughter said only the facade of the hand-cut glassware company was left.

Three generations of the family worked at the factory, said Mr Abbate.

He said his Italian father Antonio, who is now aged 83, came to Northern Ireland when the conflict was at its height to train glassblowers.

He moved from Tyrone Crystal to establish his own firm. It would have been open 40 years next year.

Fire appliances, a high-reach aerial machine and a command unit attended and the firefighting operation was "extensive", a statement from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) said.

Fire crews arrived at about 6pm and were confronted by a well-developed fire in the property.

Gas cylinders were on the premises.

Officers appealed for anyone with information to contact them.

The crowdfunding page can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/belfast-crystal.

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