BLAST ROCKS CAFE

By BREE PRICE

TEARS spilled from the corners of Rebekka Battista's eyes as she surveyed her shattered cafe.

A backdraft blast from a kitchen fire had torn apart her Left Bank Cafe in downtown Lismore, blowing out three glass doors and sending shards of glass flying. The damage will close down her business for one month.

However, Rebekka was adamant yesterday the fire would have no effect on her role as co-ordinator of the Our Kids Black and White Ball this Saturday night at the Lismore City Hall.

"This is the worst week for this to happen, but the ball will still go on," she said.

"I've already rung the team organising the ball and they've gone into action. They'll rally the troops."

Rebekka said tomorrow's afternoon tea to celebrate the 21st birthday of Lismore Base Hospital Children's Ward would also still be going ahead.

The blast happened about 9.30pm, four hours after the cafe was closed for the day. No-one was injured.

NSW Fire Brigade zone commander Geoff Barnes said it appeared a kitchen fire caused the blast, after it consumed all the oxygen in the building.

He said there was an inrush of air through a vent or window, resulting in a backdraft blast.

As well as three glass doors, the glass panel between the roof and the main exterior wall was blown out.

An internal wall separating the kitchen and the restaurant area was also blown over, and the kitchen was left a blackened mess.

The fire was contained in the kitchen, but the restaurant area and the Lismore Regional Art Gallery, next door to the cafe, were damaged by smoke.

Mrs Battista, who has owned the cafe with her husband Gianpiero for seven years, couldn't put a cost on the damage. "We have 12 staff. We're like a big family. They are pretty distraught," she said.

Waitress Fiona Tate fought back tears. Fiona had closed the cafe at 5.30pm. "I thought I'd left something on, even though I know I checked everything," she said.

Mrs Battista said the damage would be covered by insurance.



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