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Tears as Gikomba market goes up in flames

By Kibiwott Koross | Published Wed, June 24th 2015 at 00:00, Updated June 23rd 2015 at 22:58 GMT +3
Members of the public watch helplessly as the sprawlng Gikomba market burns. Hundreds of traders lost goods worth millions of shillings in the inferno that razed down most parts of the market yesterday morning. [Photos: Elvis Ogina,jacob otieno,Beverlyne Musili/standard]

Property worth millions of shillings was destroyed when fire gutted down stalls in Gikomba market in what traders and police say was an arson attack.

The inferno, which started at around 1am left traders in tears as they counted heavy losses. Smoke billowed the market, which is one of the biggest open air market in the region, and is famous for affordable second hand clothes.

Nairobi police boss Benson Kibui said preliminary investigations had indicated that the fire was caused by arsonists.

Traders interviewed by The Standard linked the fire to unnamed land grabbers who according to them are attempting to force them out of the market.

The traders watched on the sides as street boys and young men pulled metal bars amid the fumes, throwing them into the nearby Nairobi River to cool before loading them to waiting handcarts.

Metal scrap dealers immediately took over the place with weighing scales as the young men fought with the fire to pull more metal bars.

Grief engulfed the traders and some could not hold back tears as they watched the fire gut down what until Monday night earned them their daily bread.

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The traders would be seen in groups with others who had managed to salvage some stock busy loading the handcarts, as police kept vigil.

"We suspect this fire was caused by arsonists and it is very sad that almost 70 per cent of the clothes and shoes here were burnt," Mr Kibue told journalists at the site. However, no suspect has since been arrested in connection with the inferno.

Trader Gladys Wambogo who has been selling her wares at the market for the last nine years said a security guard at the market called at around 3am to inform her of the fire.

She said she had lost goods worth more than Sh500,000 since she had just imported clothes and shoes worth Sh200,000 last week.

She said: "I was here early enough but I could only watch and cry as the place was burning. I don't understand what caused the fire. We have been hearing reports that some people want to evict us...I am not sure but if it is true, they could have just told us to go."

Stanley Kihoro who said he had lost property worth almost Sh5 million said the cause of the fire was suspect since another had been contained last week.

A large section of the market is owned by the county government while some parts are said to belong to individuals who according to him, are behind their ouster.

"We have had many fire outbreaks here and it is time we are told the truth. Some people do not want to see us here," he said.

Similar fires have engulfed the market in September 2000, January 2009, September 2010 and March 2012. Two incidences were reported in 2014. Yesterday's was the third incident this year with the latest being last week.

Fire brigade and rescue teams that arrived at the scene had little do to as they could not access the scene of the fire.

"We can do nothing. There are no access roads inside the market," a fire engine driver told The Standard.

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