There was a sombre mood as people stood helplessly watching as the fire was mercilessly razing down Lilongwe Central Market while some business owners unsuccessfully attempted to rescue whatever they could from their stock.
The fire is said to have started around 2 AM in the morning from the northern part of the market allegedly from the bottle stores along the Devil Street.
As it had stated concerned people called the city council officials but no fire engine was sent to the scene of fire until around six in the morning when three fire engines were seen speeding towards the market While the market was only less than a quarter remaining with the other three quarters already burned down.
The angry mob threw stones at the fire fighting engines forcing them to speed away for fear of destruction. As the people were throwing the stones they We’re heard shouting at the drivers, saying, “What have you come to do here since the market has been burning for the past four hours? Are you really serious?”
Public Relations Officer for Lilongwe City Council, Tamara Chafunya, acknowledged that that the council’s fire fighting engines were stoned but was not in agreement with the point that this was the first time they were reacting to the fire.
According to her the time the fire fighting engines were being stoned at around six in the morning, was a second time after they already shown up on the fire scene around three AM about an hour after the fire had started.
Said Chafunya, “At the moment we can’t say much because every one is in a shock with this devastating incident, however on the part of our response to the fire, the time the fire engines were stoned was a second time because they left the fire scene Was around three in the morning in order to refill water in the tanks.”
The market comprises, amongst other sections, fish, hardware which had electronic equipment, motor vehicle spare parts and tinsmith, clothes where also tailors were operating from, The tight stalls’ popularly known as Mpanipani which housed merchants selling merchandise mostly from outside the country such as South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
There was heavy Police presence around the market who were trying to stop people attempting to loot property from the affected shops, taking advantage of the fire.
Local Government spokesperson, Muhlabase Mughogho, said that there wasn’t much she could say for the ministry was waiting for a report from Lilongwe City Council which is likely to contain more details about the fire.