Massive fire destroys Ikea store in Netanya

70 firefighters put out huge blaze; roof collapses and entire inventory reportedly incinerated; Company says will take months to repair damage.

Ikea fire 311 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Ikea fire 311
(photo credit: Channel 10)
An enormous fire ripped through the landmark IKEA furniture store in Netanya early on Saturday, completely destroying the building but causing no casualties.
The Fire and Rescue Service mobilized nearly 40 vehicles and 70 firefighters to the blaze.RELATED: Carmel blaze relatives insist on state probe
There was no one in the building at the time.
Heavy black smoke rose from the store into the sky on Saturday morning before fire crews established control over the fire. Eyewitnesses described the scene above the building as a mushroom cloud resembling an atomic explosion.
It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, though one possibility being explored by fire investigators is an electrical fault that may have occurred near the store’s roof.
Police have not ruled out arson by rival businesses.
IKEA representatives said it would take several months to repair the store.
“An investigation is under way to determine the cause of the fire,” IKEA Israel chairman Ron Hadassi told Israel Radio.
“We’ll have to rebuild the store, and that will take between six months and a year.
“This has been a difficult day, but thankfully no one was hurt. We have no idea if this was arson. That’s for the police to discover.”
The outlet would continue to operate out of its Rishon Lezion branch, and customers could return items to that location, IKEA representatives said.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonvitch and IKEA Israel’s CEO Shlomo Gabbay arrived to inspect the damage, estimated to be NIS 350 million.
Gabbay ensured employees of the store that they would be “taken care of” while it was being rebuilt.
IKEA Israel, a franchise of the Swedish-based conglomerate, is a private company controlled by Matthew Bronfman. It has some 400 employees in the Netanya store, which was opened 10 years ago.
The addition of the Rishon branch last year boosted the number of visitors to IKEA in 2010 to 3.5 million. There are plans to open a third store in Haifa.
IKEA international has 320 stores in 38 countries. Its sales last year totalled 23.8 billion euros, with its Israel branches reporting a turnover of NIS 678 million.
Meanwhile, four vehicles in Netanya were set ablaze in arson attacks across the city overnight. One of the vehicles belonged to the Prison Service.
Police said two suspects were being sought in connection with the incidents.