Business and migrants came to a standstill at Songwe Border in Karonga when fire destroyed Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) warehouse on Friday morning.
MRA in-charge Steve Pikani was not available when we contacted, but onlookers spoke of a massive inconveniences as departures and arrivals at the boundary with Tanzania came to a halt to pave the way for well-wishers to put out the fire suspected to have emanated from an electrical fault in the MRS storeroom.
According to Karonga Police in-charge Edward Chingaipe, scores of people at the border—including public servants, travellers, villagers and traders—managed to extinguish the flames with firefighters in sight.
“Around 10am, fire erupted at Songwe, well-wishers managed to put it out and to save a lot of goods and Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi [Escom] officials are already on site to ascertain the cause of the tragedy,” deputy commissioner Chingaipe said.
He described the loss as “not much” as most of the goods were rescued on time.
Apart from MRA, the affected building plays host to the Department of Immigration and Malawi Police Service.
The law enforcers named the MRA warehouse as the worst hit by the fire that supposedly escalated from an electrical spark which exploded too close to highly inflammable perfumes in store.
The MRA official was out of reach when The Nation called to get a glimpse of the cause and damage in the warehouse where uncleared goods are stuffed.
However, Immigration spokesperson Yusuf Shaibu, who took part in getting rid of the fire, said the department’s offices were unscathed.
“It was around 10am when we saw smoke emanating from the warehouse. We rushed to the scene and helped each other to end the fire and rescue vital goods in our respective offices,” he said.
The security agents described the security situation as manageable despite some losses which had not been quantified yet.
However, the clearing of offices, with goods scattered all over the place in the foreground of the fateful building, left cross-border traders and travellers stranded with no activity in the immigration bay that offers a gateway to East Africa.
According to Shaibu, service provision had not resumed by noon.
The tragedy further illumined the fragile state of the border post with no fire engine and emergency services brigade.
Civilians, armed with fire extinguishers, pails of water and tree branches, had already put the fire to rest when the fire fighters arrived from Karonga Airport about 50km away.