PICS & VIDEO: Police probe devices found in two Woolworths stores in Durban
Durban - Police were on Friday continuing their probe into the two attacks on Woolworths stores that left staff and customers at the Gateway and Pavilion branches rattled.
The devices, which caused the two stores to be evacuated were found on Thursday.
Lieutenant Colonel Thulani Zwane, a KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson said police investigated two separate incidents where fires were reported at shopping malls on Thursday.
"A Woolworth store situated at the Pavilion Shopping Mall had caught alight at 1.30 am on Thursday. The police explosives unit found a suspected device looking like a cellphone," he said.
Woolworths South Africa has not responded to a Daily News email pertaining to the damages caused in the store.
Zwane said police were also called out to another Woolworths Store in Gateway Theatre of Shopping Mall.
"Police investigated and found a torch-like device with a cellphone attached. We cannot confirm at this stage whether both incidents are related. The motive is unknown," Zwane said.
Police are investigating a possible bomb attack after an incendiary device was located inside the stores.
Reports circulated on social media said that staff and patrons were evacuated while officers from the bomb squad worked to defuse the device.
A short video clip taken inside one of the Woolworths stores shows a considerable amount of water on the floor and smoke in the distance which set off the internal sprinkler system. A man presumed to be a maintenance worker or security guard is seen using a fire extinguisher aiming it at a clothing rack.
Several burnt pieces of clothing can be seen hanging from displays.
Zwane said a case of arson was opened at Durban North and Westville police stations.
A police officer, who attended the scene, confirmed that a device was found. He added that it was not a bomb but rather an incendiary device meant to burn and not explode.
“Once the device was spotted, security rushed people out of the shop. Items were damaged as the sprinklers inside the store went off. No injuries were reported. The bomb squad arrived and managed to diffuse the device and contain it inside the store,” the officer said.
Via a statement, Gateway Theatre of Shopping confirmed that an incendiary device was found in a store.
"Authorities, as well as the centre operations team, were immediately called in to assist with the matter. As a precautionary measure, the store was evacuated as the safety of our shoppers and staff is of utmost importance,” the statement read.
In a statement on Friday, Woolworth said: “We can confirm that we found an explosive device in our Westville Pavilion store late on Wednesday night and Gateway store on Thursday. The device in the Pavilion store caused a fire in a section of our menswear department, which was extinguished quickly and no one was injured. As soon as we were made aware of a potential explosive device in our Gateway store, we immediately evacuated the store as a precautionary measure in order to ensure the safety of our people and our customers."The safety of our people and our customers is our highest priority. We are working with the appropriate authorities to investigate this issue further and are taking additional precautionary measures. Both stores are open for trading.”