Uganda’s Biggest Market Razed By Fire

Fire has destroyed Owino market the second time and properties worth billions of shillings are believed to have been lost. There were tears all over St Balikudembe as traders began to arrive the scene after being informed about the development.

The market has an estimated 25,000 traders, largely women. The cause of the fire is not yet known. But the Division Police Commander Old Kampala Siraj Bakareke who rushed to the scene moments after the fire started, said the fire started from a stall near the gate to the market on Swaminarayan road, adjacent to the New Park and quickly spread to the rest of the market.

“We are investigating the cause of the fire. It started between midnight and 1.00pm but climaxed between 1:30am-2:00am,” he said in an interview. No injuries were reported except traders who fainted upon seeing the ashes that had been their merchandise. It is understood that most of the traders are repaying loans they had got from banks to recapitalize their businesses following an earlier fire that gutted the market in February 2009.

Without making any specific reference, the traders in groups of three to five, kept on lamenting and cursing whoever could have been behind the fire. “This is an indirect way of telling us to go back to village. I think even those who went back to the village after the first fire are now better off than us. Now even the transport to take someone to the village has been destroyed here (in the fire),” said Rajab Nsubuga, who had three stalls of secondhand shoes razed.

“It is true that God cares about us all the time, but this time I think He did not. I do not know what type of death to recommend for whoever did this. I cannot imagine what that person is feeling at home right now,” lamented Faridah Nassolo, a food vendor who could not locate her workstation in the chaos.

All the merchandise in the market was destroyed except probably less than hundreds of traders’ property which was at the entrances to the market. All the stalls and stores were reduced to ashes making this probably the biggest fire the country has ever suffered.

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