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Ablaze

On November 18, 1947, as a fire took hold in the basement of Ballantynes department store in Christchurch, 500 employees kept working and hundreds of shoppers roamed through the showrooms or chatted over tea and cakes in the cafe. Staff were eagerly awaiting a visit from reigning Miss New Zealand Mary Wootton and management were quick to reassure staff and customers alike that, despite a bit of smoke, there was nothing to worry about. Hours later, 41 people were dead.