Vendors in Balaka main market have nothing to depend on after fire gutted down almost half of the market on Saturday night. The fire which started around 9 pm was extinguished by well wishers who rushed to the scene of the accident before Fire brigades from Zomba City Council (89 km from Balaka) joined them at around 11 pm.
Although the fire was much scary, some managed to rescue few things from their shops while others never managed. According to Balaka Police Public Relations Officer Titani Chadwala, some bad mannered people looted shops on the other side of the market which was not affected by fire thereby taking advantage of the accident. He also confirmed that 100 shops were destroyed during the accident.
People have blamed Balaka Town Council for not having equipment which can put out fire during such incidences. According to our sources at Balaka Town Council who asked for anonymity, vendors are blamed for not taking safety measures when doing business in the market.
“We have been advising them not to keep flammable things in their shops but they never listened,” say the sources.
Balaka Main Market has fire extinguishers equipment but during the accident people failed to use them as there was not even a single drop of water from the pipes.
Government officials, Montfort Fathers, a musician Lucius Banda, former Member of Parliament Ronald Chanthunya were spotted at the scene of the accident during the night to see for themselves and sympathize with the vendors .
Lucius Banda popularly known as “Soldier” said that he was saddened by the inferno as a lot of merchandises has been destroyed which is a big setback since for some this was the only source of income.
According to police publicist, the cause of the fire has not yet been established as investigations are still underway but some people are suspecting that the fire started from the shop whose owner was allegedly keeping jerry cans containing petrol. The suspect is in police custody for questioning.
Scarcity of fuel in the country has forced many people to keep jerry cans of fuel in their houses which is becoming a big threat to their lives and property.
This is not the first time Balaka has had fire accident. In 2006 a house belonging to former member of parliament for Balaka South, late Thom Mnesa was gutted down and property worth millions of kwacha was destroyed. In June last year Nthandizi Market was also destroyed and this was after Balaka District Education Offices were also destroyed.