The Central Market of Bujumbura on fire: Pierre Nkurunziza call for national solidarity

By the Editors

Sunday 27 January 2013 at 07:19:56

Early in the morning, a huge fire broke out at the a central market in Bujumbura. Iwacu offers essential news on the matter…

21h15

- All routes leading to the central market are closed, the perimeter of 100 meters around the market is guarded by the national army deployed as a reinforcement in the centre of the capital
- Smoke still lingers in the air even though the flames are completely extinguished in what is left of the market
- In hospitals, disaster victims were welcomed and treated free. Some sources say that anytime the first bodies would be removed from the ashes of the market.

We still don’t know the extent of human and material damage (estimated at several billion Fbu) of this fire or its cause.

17h15

The President of the Republic, the Ombudsman and the Minister of Public Safety in front of the ruins of the Bujumbura central market ©Iwacu
The President of the Republic, the Ombudsman and the Minister of Public Safety in front of the ruins of the Bujumbura central market ©Iwacu

The President of the Republic, who rushed back from Addis Ababa expressed his profound solidarity with all families who lost their possessions in the market’s fire: "It is a misfortune that hits the whole Burundi, not just those who were selling or buying products in this market."

After a tour of the market by the West and South wings, Pierre Nkurunziza announced an urgent and exceptional meeting of the National Security Council in which "the root causes of the fire will be analysed and appropriate responses to be applied so that such an event may not recur in Burundi."

In addition, a national solidarity fund will be created, said the Burundian number one accompanied by his wife, the Ombudsman and the Minister in charge of Public Safety.

16h40

In a statement that they just made public, MPs and senators elected in the municipality of Bujumbura declared the following:

- They sympathise and are in solidarity with traders who lost all their belongings in this fire, but also with the families of victims and with the entire Burundi in general
- They request that Banks that work with these traders support them during this time of hardship
- They also request to the general trade union of traders (Sygeco) to remain on the side of traders who are victims of the disaster
- They warn traders from other markets in the city of Bujumbura not to speculate on the consequences of the disaster and raise prices at will
- Finally, they seek the involvement of the police to conduct investigations in the shortest possible time in order to shed light on the causes of the tragedy.

16h10

- With the support of the Rwandese helicopter, smoke has abated while the machine pours water again and again on the remains of the market.

The Rwandese Helicopter in action above the central market of Bujumbura ©JCNahayo
The Rwandese Helicopter in action above the central market of Bujumbura ©JCNahayo

15h30

To avoid any attempt to destabilise safety, FDN soldiers patrol around the market and in the capital ©Iwacu
To avoid any attempt to destabilise safety, FDN soldiers patrol around the market and in the capital ©Iwacu

14h40

- Police officers are looting? Comments by DL this morning on Facebook: "Well I know that the Burundian police service has its flaws ... And today the fire brigade of the police was more than disappointing! But I stayed at the market for several hours since early this morning. I toured the market on fire but frankly I have not seen police looting. Instead I have seen many of them preventing looting or theft! And if it was not for the police, I think we would have seen horrific scenes where people are killing each other, as people were on edge. Please, unless it is really proven conclusively; let us stop demonising the National Police of Burundi!"

14h15

- Just as a reminder:

13h44

- A view that summarises the situation at 13h40

From Kiriri heights, we can see the drama unfolding since early this morning © DNimbona
From Kiriri heights, we can see the drama unfolding since early this morning ©DNimbona

13h30

- A Rwandese helicopter at work above the market to prevent the fire from spreading around by pouring water on the source of the fire
- An hour earlier, the First Deputy President of the Republic hosted a special press conference, calling for help from EAC countries, before announcing the launch of a national commission "to preside over the investigations and to ensure urgent measures are taken to reorganise economic life after this disaster

"13h15

- "The President of the Republic has just suspended his participation in the Summit of Heads of State of the African Union in Addis Ababa and is en route to Bujumbura, following the fire which destroyed the central market in Bujumbura" announces the Presidency.

12h45

- The question that remains on everyone's lips is: Where did the source of fire come from?

A terrorist act? A short circuit, as was the case of shoe kiosks a few meters away or at Kamenge Market?

The testimonies on site rather argue that a fire reportedly started in the central part of the market, "where garments from tailors are ironed," said a trader who mentions that "the smoke rose from the market before 6:00 am."

A path worth exploring especially as "the original smoke that I saw from the Northern Station around 7am was in fact coming from the centre of the market," said our correspondent on site.

11h15

- While a thick smoke hangs over the market on fire, around the market we see soldiers taking position. In groups of three, armed soldiers are stationed in several corners. Certainly to deter looters.
In the streets near the market, some people carry goods in taxis, on their heads, on bikes as they can. Traders? Looters? Nobody can tell. People seem resigned and overwhelmed.
- The human toll remains unknown at 11h10. It is impossible to enter the central market which is still burning. A woman has thrown herself into the fire. There could be more victims.

10h26

- Faced with a huge crowd, the police try to drive back people of the capital city who came by tens of thousands to follow the evolution of the fire (the crowd goes up to the Independence Square) while the smoke is visible a dozen of kilometers away.

For the police, the objective is to clear the bus parking towards the north of Bujumbura, while the fire is dangerously approaching the headquarters of SOGEMAC: "The bottles of liquors near the place continued to explode" says our correspondent - Under the wailing of ambulances’ sirens, fainted women are being evacuated, and their families’ main income was coming from trading in the central market.

10h25

- A huge crowd seen around the central market of Bujumbura (with the issue of fire being the main subject of all local medias) in pandemonium. Among them, the Ombudsman, the Mayor of the city of Bujumbura, the administrator of Rohero, all members of the Board of Directors of SOGEMAC and the Speaker of the National Assembly
- Rescue Police evacuates a burnt person from inside the market: "According to many sources, those who died were trying to save gallons of oil that they were selling," says our correspondent
- The police tries to limit the fire on western side of the market so as to prevent it from spreading towards le Rusca Plaza. You will notice on the photo below that police officers who are serving as firefighters do not have appropriate thermal clothing

The police is trying to limit the fire on western side of the market so that it does not spread towards le Rusca Plaza. ¢Iwacu
The police is trying to limit the fire on western side of the market so that it does not spread towards le Rusca Plaza. ©Iwacu

10h10

- On the spot, Iwacu correspondents announce the presence of the 1st Vice-president Thérence Sinunguruza, the chief spokesman of the President of the Republic, Leonidas Hatungimana as well as the spokesperson of the national army, Colonel Gaspard Baratuza.

10h02

- The President of the Republic of Burundi in Addis Ababa for the African Union summit "deeply regrets the fire which occurred at the central market of Bujumbura. He asks all relevant services to do everything in their power to limit the damage, and most importantly, to determine the origin of the fire."

9h50

-"Everything inside the market is in smoke: the roof has collapsed, the iron bars melted against the violence of fire," says our correspondent
- In fact, it turns out that with the inability to contain the fire, firefighters are stationed mainly around the two petrol stations, one in the northeast of the market (on the other side of the Grenier du Burundi, the other towards south of the market outside the headquarters of Mutec).
- At the moment, the emergency police supported by the population, tries to control the fire in the parking lot south of the market, so that the fire does not spread towards the other side of the street and burn BNDE, kiosks around there (which sell petrol and tyres amongst others).

9h05

- Just two photos which summarise the situation

One photo which summarise the atmosphere around the central market of Bujumbura (taken from the Northern side of the square) ©B.Nkomerwa
One photo which summarise the atmosphere around the central market of Bujumbura (taken from the Northern side of the square) ©B.Nkomerwa

A few meters from the headquarters of the Banque Commerciale du Burundi (BCB), thick smoke rises into the sky ©C.T
A few meters from the headquarters of the Banque Commerciale du Burundi (BCB), thick smoke rises into the sky ©C.T

8h50

-" Firefighters were able to stop the fire in the eastern part of the market where there are stalls of fish and meat ", reports our correspondent.
It is important to note that this part of the market lead to a petrol station, a few tens of meters away,
- According to the first estimates, "more than 90% of the market is reduced to ashes"

It is the stampede for those traders who can ¢Iwacu
It is the stampede for those traders who can ©Iwacu

8h40

"In fact, all properties of the central market were burnt by fire ", an Iwacu correspondent summarises for us

There are scores of people who died in the vast shed of the market, "surely these are traders who were trying to save their goods in distress" sources on site say.

Scenes of attempts to loot kiosks around the market: dozens of people are arrested by police officers working with SOGEMAC (the Management Company of the Central Market).

Two fire trucks are on the spot but could do nothing

Everybody seem powerless against the violence of fire ¢Iwacu
Everybody seem powerless against the violence of fire ©Iwacu

8h25

- The Burundian largest market is on fire from a little earlier than 6:30 this morning
- The fire spreads: the area of clothes and shoes in the centre of the square is completely on fire, and the fire moves towards the northern entrance overlooking the bus park to the northern areas of the capital.
- Until now the causes of the fire are unknown
- Scenes of panic around the market as traders, mostly uninsured, cannot enter the furnace to recover their goods.

Editor: Iwacu-Burundi

www.iwacu-burundi.org/

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