Three in court over P-lab fire

Three people will appear in court today on drugs and arson charges after a suspected P-lab erupted in flames during an armed police raid.

Explosions echoed across Katikati yesterday after about two dozen police, including armed offenders squad officers, descended on a residential block on Park Rd.

Neighbours were told to keep indoors while police swarmed around an industrial-sized shed.

Shortly afterwards, explosions echoed across the town as the shed caught alight. Bright orange flames leapt from the shed and thick, black smoke billowed out of the roof, leaving a lingering, sickly smell.

Some nearby residents were evacuated following the explosion, after being informed there were toxic fumes in the smoke.

It took more than a dozen firefighters from Katikati Volunteer Fire Brigade, Greerton and Mount Maunganui more than five hours to bring the blaze under control and dampen the hot spots.

Police executed a search warrant and arrested three people at the address.

A 35-year-old Katikati man, a 37-year-old Maketu man and a 26-year-old Tauranga woman will appear in Tauranga District Court this morning.

They are jointly charged with arson and conspiring to manufacture methamphetamine.

Police will examine the scene today to establish the cause of the fire.

They said it was not possible to confirm whether there was a methamphetamine lab at the site until the examination was complete.

Residents said a group of young people had been living in the building.

A neighbour, who would not be named, said it appeared all of their possessions were destroyed in the blaze, including a classic car.

"They had lots of stuff stored in there. They used to have parties in there but not recently."

Another neighbour said AOS members drove on to her backyard about 11am.

"We heard dogs barking and people yelling so I thought it was a fight or something, then I went outside and saw all these armed offenders guys with their guns."

The woman said a member of the AOS team warned her and her family to stay indoors as the shed contained volatile chemicals. She said she was told by an officer that the building was a suspected P lab.

 

 

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