Property worth over K36 million is feared to have gone up in smoke on Thursday night when a raging fire swept the Area 13 Market in Lilongwe.
The unofficial estimation was given by distraught market chairperson Chikumbutso Ngwira on Friday as market officials assessed the damage caused by the fire.
The fire is said to have started around 11pm and it took the Lilongwe City Council (LCC) Fire Brigade some two hours to put out—but only after half the market was destroyed.
“I am sure the figure will go beyond the estimated K36 million property loss after everyone who has lost his or her market stalls and foodstuff and other items is taken into account,” he stated.
Apart from the usual market merchandise displayed either openly or in stalls, the Area 13 Market was home to some 42 mostly make-shift restaurants dotted inside and outside. The restaurants were popular for providing ‘cheap’ meals to customers in the City Centre area.
“Inside this market, there are 38 businesspersons affected by this fire. But then almost everyone who was running the restaurant business in this vicinity has been greatly affected because they routinely kept their foodstuff and utensils in the market for safe-keeping.
“Such stuff is all gone and no restaurant business could take place today. As you can see from the sombre faces around, the restaurant owners have lost out big time; it is a disaster that has crippled many thriving businesses,” Ngwira stated.
Most businesspersons who lost property in the market fire and who rushed to the disaster scene by midnight, looked on helplessly—with others weeping—as the fire destroyed their property.
“The city council firemen put up a brave fight to quell the fire and, thereby, save about half of the market,” said Ngwira, adding that he rushed to the scene, from his Area 23 Township home, after receiving a phone concerning the incident.
The Weekend Nation witnessed a moving scene when middle-aged Mercy Gondwe collected warped and ash-laden elements which used to be 25 food containers for a thriving restaurant business.
“As you can see, fire has damaged the containers, the actual food and utensils. This was the business that enabled me to pay school fees for my child at Livingstonia University.
“I have lost about K5 million. What will I do now?” she asked, in a quivering voice. Ironically when she was narrating her ordeal on Zodiak Broadcasting Station, she broke into tears.
But among the lucky few was Mrs. Tusekile Harawa, who lost only one of her two stalls to the fire. “I lost about K400 000 in the burnt stall but I still count myself lucky and I feel sorry for my colleagues who have experienced much bigger losses.”
Lilongwe Police Station publicist Kingsley Dandaula confirmed the incident but said police were still compiling details, including the cause of the fire and the damage caused.
LCC publicist Tamara Chafunya said preliminary findings by the city council officials indicate that half the market was destroyed. “We will give concrete details on the cause of the fire and the estimated amount of property destroyed after we conclude the assessment now underway,” she stated. n