Fire guts Balaka market, over 100 shops wrecked

Fire has destroyed over 100 shops at Balaka main market, exactly six months after another inferno consumed over half of Mthandizi market in the same district.

Balaka Police Public Relations Officer Titani Chadwala said the fire started around 10pm Friday night and was put out by fire engines from the Zomba City Council.

He said the cause of the inferno was still unclearly but “it is suspected to have started from a shop whose owner was keeping petrol in jerry cans.”

Flashback: Gutted, a flea market in Blantyre

The police PRO said a guard outside the shop had innocently lit fire to be warming himself outside the shop when suddenly the shop caught fire.

Looting

Chadwala however said the fire did not damage all the over 100 shops but some of them were looted by people who came to the scene to assist extinguishing it.

“The people took advantage of the accident and started looting the shops,” said the police PRO.

Genuine helpers failed to put out the fire with water as it spread to other shops and the fire brigade only surfaced after about an hour but managed to control it.

Meanwhile, officials from the Balaka Town Council in conjunction with the victims are still working on estimates of how much has been lost in the incident.

Most of the shops that have been destroyed belong to electrical appliances’ merchandisers, according to police.

In July this year, another inferno destroyed more than half of Mthandizi market in the same district after a phone battery which was being charged got burst.

Fire from the battery caught a grass thatched roof of the building before spreading to other areas and more than 30 wooden shops were burnt to ashes.

This fire broke out again a few months after another in the same town which destroyed part of district offices of the Ministry of Education.

Balaka Town Council has no firefighting equipment and during such incidents it relies on Liwonde Town Council but the engine there is also reported to have stopped functioning a few years ago and both now depend on Zomba City Council, which is over 50 kilometers away from Balaka.

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