Witnesses rushed to the aid of dozens of people after a man allegedly set fire to a Commonwealth Bank in Melbourne’s south-east, leaving six people in a critical condition.
Police said they responded to reports a man had set fire to the bank on Springvale Rd, Springvale, about 11:30am.
“The man has been taken to hospital in a serious condition under police guard,” a police spokesperson said.
Ambulance Victoria said they had treated 26 people, since crews were called to the bank, including six people who suffered serious burns and were taken to the Alfred Hospital.
“We had to escalate to the highest level of our emergency response plan, it was significant,” Ambulance Victoria’s Andy Roughton said.
‘There was blood everywhere’
Ashley Atkin-Fone, a witness at the scene, said he saw the suspect place a bomb at the front entrance before hearing a big explosion and seeing black smoke pouring out of the bank.
“The blast went off at the front entrance, he’s put the bomb in there, it’s gone off and a few people have got caught out — this one kid he was in a bad state,” he said.
Victoria Police’s Inspector Jacqui Poida said she could not confirm whether there was an explosion before the fire.
“The information I’ve got is there was a male person that attended the Commonwealth Bank,” Inspector Poida said.
“He had some sort of accelerant with him. A container, not sure what he had. And somehow that accelerant was used inside the bank.”
She called on witnesses to contact Crime Stoppers.
Mr Atkin-Fone said he saw at least four people seriously injured at the scene, before running in to help.
“This kid comes running out all burnt, screaming his head off … blood everywhere … I was shocked for a couple of the minutes,” he said.
“I sprint across the road, go into Optus and get the fire extinguisher, I go inside get the fire out with this other kid and yeah, we just put the fire out.
“This worker come out the front out of nowhere, it’s packed with smoke, so I said get him, go around the back see if you can get the fire exit open and get stuff out the back.
“I got the fire out, I took five steps inside, I was shouting and shouting but I couldn’t hear anyone, the alarms were going off, no-one was hearing me, and then all of a sudden a few minutes later the police come, and the fire engines and everyone else.”
The Country Fire Authority’s Paul Carrigg praised people on the scene who came to the aid of the victims.
He said it was amazing and lucky no–one had lost their lives.
“It was a combined effort I think by civilians, witnesses who were in attendance, and the emergency services response [was] fantastic,” he said.
“They were fantastic from my view, provided water for the victims.”
Commonwealth Bank fire in Springvale. Looks like an explosion? pic.twitter.com/rAYZGAgsC7
— Solf (@sunprawn) November 18, 2016
Hundreds of people gathered along the street as cries could be heard and smoke filtered out of the building.
Springvale Road, a busy shopping strip 23 kilometres from the CBD, is now lined with emergency service personnel.
Onlooker Eric Fleuiot said he was still in shock after witnessing the incident.
“As I come from the train station, I heard a fire truck, then I saw two police cars turning up, barricades went up … it happened so quick,” he said.
“One guy had both hands burnt, and was screaming and the paramedics and fire brigade were there.
“I just can’t believe this has happened in Springvale.”
The Commonwealth Bank closed the branch while they respond to the situation.
“Our first priority is the safety of our staff and customers and as a result the branch will remain closed for the rest of the day,” the bank said in a statement.
“Our response team is on site, and we are working closely with local authorities and emergency services.”
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
© 2016 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. Read the ABC Disclaimer here.