Jesus will be happy – arson-hit Sunderland takeaway back in business

Jalal Ahmed who's Zeba Balti House, Hylton Road, was destroyed in a fire in March has opened at his new site in North Bridge Street, Sunderland.
Jalal Ahmed who's Zeba Balti House, Hylton Road, was destroyed in a fire in March has opened at his new site in North Bridge Street, Sunderland.
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AN Indian takeaway destroyed by fire has reopened – just two miles from its former home.

Zeba Balti House, in Hylton Road, was left gutted after a suspected arson attack two months ago, causing an estimated £100,000 of damage.

Zeba takeaway on Hylton Road after the fire.

Zeba takeaway on Hylton Road after the fire.

Wearsiders expressed their upset at the news, with ITV talent show Superstar winner Ben Forster tweeting that he hoped Zeba would get back on its feet.

Curry house owner Jalal Ahmed initially feared for the future of his business, but has now relocated to a new unit north of the River Wear.

Zeba’s home is now in North Bridge Street, Monkwearmouth, where Italian eatery Rustico used to be, and includes a restaurant service as well as a takeaway.

Mr Ahmed, whose family has run Zeba for more than 30 years, is renting the building, as he did with the Hylton Road shop.

The 53-year-old told the Echo: “It’s been really hectic over the last two or three weeks getting the place ready, but now I’m just very pleased to be open.

“The staff who we had before, some of them have managed to get new jobs elsewhere, but we’ve got a new chef here with great experience and my children are going to be involved too.”

It was in the early hours of Tuesday, March 12, that the blaze engulfed Mr Ahmed’s store, obliterating its shop front, kitchen and cooking equipment.

Crews from Sunderland North, East, South and West stations were sent to the scene, with more than 20 firefighters working to put out the blaze.

A special command unit from Newcastle was also present.

Staff from the gas and electricity boards then switched off all power at Zeba, while neighbouring properties were evacuated.

Now though, Mr Ahmed says he and his family are relieved to be able to reopen the business, which is open seven days a week.

“The customers have been really supportive and we have them from all over Sunderland,” said the dad-of-three.

“It’s not much more than a mile from where we used to be and many of them have seen our new sign and come in to say how pleased they are to see us opening back up.”

l A 20-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of arson, has been bailed pending further inquiries.