Valletta residents are becoming increasingly worried about their safety and their property after a series of car fires in different parts of the capital city.
“A lot of people are terrorised,” Valletta mayor Alfred Zammit told Times of Malta.
“This is a situation where everyone is wondering who could be next. It could have affected anyone,” he said, adding that each of the fires could have had tragic consequences.
Community group Valletta Residents Revival said the situation came to a head a few weeks ago when three separate incidents were reported within days of each other.
“Residents are becoming increasingly wary of the spate of arson attacks on private vehicles in various areas around Valletta,” the group said in a statement.
“We have reached a stage where every day, one hopes to find his car still intact, a situation which is highly nerve-racking.
“As residents, we would like to voice our concern to the respective authorities and we expect feedback from the police with regard to any investigation that could be ongoing.”
A police spokesperson was able to confirm a number of fires which took place between July 27 and August 9.
The first occurred on St Sebastian Street, the ring road leading to Fort St Elmo, on July 27.
On August 5, a burning car was reported on St Nicholas Street, at the back of St Dominic’s Basilica and home to various small bars and a well-frequented mini-market.
A third car caught fire on August 9, when residents spotted the blaze at 9.40pm. The vehicle was on East Street, which runs from the Lower Barrakka Gardens to the Victoria Gate parallel to St Barbara Bastions.
The police spokesperson said that members of the civil protection department had responded in every case and no injuries were reported. He said investigations were taking place and an inquiry had been opened into every report.
There is no indication so far that the incidents were related, the spokesperson said.
Videos of other incidents have also been put on social media.
A number of parked cars were filmed ablaze on July 28 on Fountain Street and on April 7, a car behind the Mediterranean Conference Centre was video-taped burning in the morning.
Zammit recalled some six or seven incidents of cars catching fire in Valletta since the beginning of the year.
“It is frankly miraculous that no one was injured in any of these incidents. Either we’ve been very lucky or the good Lord is watching,” he said.
He said the fires had left people unable to rest easy in their own homes.
“It should be understood that these fires can have intensely negative consequences.”
In one case, the fire spread to an adjacent apartment block and engulfed the common areas before it was controlled, he said.
“It was a social housing unit and, unfortunately, the families involved had to be displaced until the Housing Authority could make it habitable again,” Zammit noted.
In another incident in the Diju Balli area, the car fire made its way to a balcony where gas cylinders were stored.
“It affected a building on top of a mini market where many families live. We’re talking in the dead of the night, with children in their beds,” Zammit said.
“It’s horrifying to think what would have happened in each case if someone had responded a split second too late.
“Every single one of these fires had the potential to become an unspeakable tragedy,” he added.
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