Updated: Gharb blast claims sixth victim
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Updated: Gharb blast claims sixth victim

Peter Paul Micallef, 35, today became the sixth victim of last Sunday's Gharb fireworks factory explosion when he passed away at Mater Dei Hospital.

Micallef was the son-in-law of fireworks factory owner Nenu Farrugia, who also lost his sons Noel and Raymond, his daugher in law Antoinette and Jean Pierre Azzopardi.

Mr Azzopardi is due to be buried after a funeral at his home town Xewkija on Friday while the members of the Farrugia family are to have a joint funeral at Fontana on Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Maria Farrugia, Nenu Farrugia's wife, has spoken on what she went through last Sunday.

“I phoned him (Nenu), literally, a minute before the explosion. I told him not to be late as I was fed up alone... He said he was soon done... Then he suddenly said ‘ciao’ and cut. I think he felt something,” Mrs Farrugia, who lost almost her entire family to the explosion, told The Times.

Moments after that phone conversation ended, people were calling in to report the blast.

“Look what happened to me. My family has been killed. I ended up alone. I have been widowed and so has my daughter and my daughter-in-law. We were a happy and united family,” she said through sobs.

Mrs Farrugia was angry at the fact that the Xagħra feast would go ahead as planned today, even though the explosion was caused by fireworks intended for the parish’s celebrations marking the Nativity of Our Lady.

“After my husband did all that work for them (Xagħra), they should show respect towards them (the victims),” she said in a hurt tone.

On the day of the tragedy, her son Raymond and his wife were meant to celebrate the lucky birthday of their youngest daughter, Maria, who turned five. They also had an 11-year-old son Luca.

Mrs Farrugia was at her home, in Fontana, when the explosion happened. She had just been on the phone with her husband. Sometime later her daughter, Marceline, called her and told her about the explosion.

She tried calling her husband but he did not answer. The two women drove to the factory and saw the devastation.

“I couldn’t believe it. I had just been on the phone with him... I trusted my husband. I knew he was careful,” she said.

Mrs Farrugia later learnt that her husband’s body was found on Monday morning under a metal sheet which, she believes, he hid under when the first blast occurred.

His was the fourth victim to be found after members of the Civil Protection Department and the Red Cross found the corpses of Noel and Antoinette Farrugia and of Mr Azzopardi. Mrs Farrugia denied reports that Antoinette was pregnant.

“It was one shock after the other. First my youngest son and his wife who just got married eight months ago. Then Jean-Pierre, who I considered as my son. Then my husband. Then my eldest son. And now my son-in-law. All shocks to my heart,” Mrs Farrugia said.

She recalled how her husband always had a passion for fireworks and this was inherited by her sons who started accompanying him to the factory when they were about 10 years old.

“I was always a bit scared. I knew it was dangerous... I used to ask him not to take our sons there but they loved going with their father... He adored our children and, now, he took them away with him,” she said through tears.

She said her husband was a good man who was loved by everyone and could not say no to people.

She could not understand why he had allowed the fireworks for the Xagħra feast to be stored at the factory. “Our store was full... They should have taken the fireworks on a barge straight to the destination where they were meant to be let off... Why increase the danger where there is danger already? These things don’t make sense.”

In a message to fireworks enthusiasts she said: “Fireworks are beautiful and without them a feast is not complete... But those unable to handle fireworks should stay away.

“People should not try and invent new things. Be very, very, very careful,” she warned.

Meanwhile, Xaghra festivities continued as normal yesterday with band marches held in the streets. "It was a full blown event, like nothing else had happened," a man who was at the village said.

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