Traders searching through ashes, hoping to recover some property. PHOTOS: Maria Wamala
By Vision reporters
Salim Uhuru, NRM chairman Kampala Central: The market authorities should come out and answer questions about the cause of the fire. This land has become a gold mine. When you see a fire, know there is some one behind it.
Rebecca Nalugga, dealer in secondhand clothes: I don’t know what is happening in this country! There is a Police post at the entrance of the market and the fire brigade headquarters is just meters away, how could the Police fail to save more property
Michael Musinguzi, deals in clothes: Where do I go after here? My entire life depended on my business that I started with a loan from the bank. Why? Has God forsaken us?
Allan Mujuni, deals in clothes: The Government doesn’t care. Soon, they will pledge huge amounts, forgetting that the most important thing is security.
Khasim Nasir, secondhand shoes dealer: Management of the market is behind this fire because they recently raised taxes from sh15,000 to sh23,000 per month, but we refused to pay it.
A trader shows some of the coins destroyed in the fire
Doreen Kemigisha, trader: The last time fire gutted this market, Kampala Metropolitan Police boss Felix Kaweesi said security would be heightened and the place would not burn again. I wonder what happened to the promise! When we attempted to save our property, the Police instead harassed us.
What caused the fire?
“Park Yard is lost. Owino saved, cause of fire unknown,” said Joseph Mugisa, the Police Chief Fire Officer. The sheer extent of the damage was massive and heart-breaking, the traders’ pain visible.
The timing of the inferno, just days from Christmas, only added to the sting. Many could be seen desperately trying to salvage anything from the charred remains as others just froze, horrified by the scene before them. Many others, upon rushing to the scene, just broke down and wailed uncontrollably.
Some of them had lost merchandise to the two previous infernos, but managed to restart and now could stand it no more.
One such trader being Kassim Mbazira, who traded in shoes. With hands pointing at the burnt remains of what once was his stock, he poured out his heart.
Fire fighters assess the damage
“Nothing like this has happened before. Every time a fire has broken out, I have returned and started all over again, but this is too much. Whoever has done this, God is our witness,” he said.
“Mbazira do not cry, the most important thing is that we are alive and can restart again. This is not the end of anything,” a friend and fellow trader, consoled him.
Another trader, also spotting a white Cranes jersey, just collapsed on the road and wept. On his knees and as if in holy supplication with both hands stretched to the skies, he asked: “God, what is it? Why me?”
Trouble flared when the Police barred traders from accessing the scene as they battled the fire and to prevent looting, a thing that did not go down well with the traders.
They pelted the security personnel with stones, prompting the Police to respond with teargas and rubber bullets.
Police explain challenges
“There was no accessibility to the Park Yard Market, in addition to the congestion due to the confused nature of the market. There were also no passages and no hydrants along Nakivubo Road.
Some of the traders who lost property in the fire ponder their next move
A section of the public was hostile towards the fire-fighters team, with some pelting the security personnel stones and cutting some houses with machetes.
Five Police vehicles were damaged, four of which had shattered wind screens and one melted due to intense heat.
Fire fighters injured include: Kihanda Hassan (stoned and suffered injury in the ribs), Cpl. Onyangai stepped on a nail, while glass particles entered PPC Magala’s eyes.
Owino market razed by fire again
Owino fire: Shops closed, Streets cleared