THE owners of a store that had been open only days before it was completely destroyed in a late-night blaze have spoken of their "absolute heartbreak".
Fifty-five firefighters tackled the fire that ripped through J Mart Warehouse on the Newtown Road trading estate at 11pm on Sunday.
Crews finally managed to bring the fire under control by 3am but spent the rest of Monday on site dampening down and monitoring hotspots in the building.
Susan Rai, whose husband Dee owns the company with brother, Jay Rai, said the family rushed to the scene when they first heard about the fire.
"We were all sat at home watching television when the alarms on our phones, which are connected to an alarm in the building, went off. We saw smoke on the video on our phones and immediately dialled 999," Mrs Rai said.
"We live in Much Cowarne, and my husband ran out of the house and drove straight there. Jay came down from Hereford as soon as he could and my son, Kd, went down after."
Mrs Rai said when her husband arrived on site at around 11.30pm, firefighters were already tackling the flames which she said were "out of control".
"My husband and son watched the place burn all night in their pyjamas while I was sat at home with my heart in my mouth. We've worked so hard to build this place up and we are absolutely heartbroken and devastated at what has happened. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. Every one thinks they are invincible and nothing will happen to them but it happened to us."
The brothers set up the business around 20 years ago, where they started out selling garden and home products on market stalls. They now own six other stores in the Herefordshire and Worcestershire area, and the Worcester store, which opened last Tuesday, would have been the seventh.
"As a family we worked everyday to get the store ready for opening — we would start early in the morning and not leave until 9pm," Mrs Rai added.
"The store would have created so many jobs in the area. Some people have suggested on Facebook that the fire was started so that we could get the insurance. They have apologised now but that's an utterly ridiculous thing to say. Only we know how hard we've worked for this."
The fire is not being treated as suspicious, and according to police may have been down to an electrical fault.