FIRE DISASTER

Property worth millions goes up in flames at Githurai market

Close to 1,000 traders are counting their losses

In Summary

• Most of the items were made of timber and the fire spread fast

• The market has had three fires in a span of one year

A firefighter at the scene of a fire which gut stalls at Gikomba market, Nairobi on Wednesday, November 7, 2018. /COURTESY
A firefighter at the scene of a fire which gut stalls at Gikomba market, Nairobi on Wednesday, November 7, 2018. /COURTESY
Image: FILE

Property worth more than Sh100 million was early on Monday reduced to ashes at Githurai 45 market.

Beds, sofa sets, and other pieces of furniture went up in smoke. Also consumed by the flames were shoes and apparels. Sewing machines and carpentry machinery were not spared.

The market sits on 1.5 acres.  The fire broke out at 4am. It was the third such incident this year. There were no casualties.

Close to 1,000 traders are counting their losses. Many have bank loans to pay. 

Stall owners and traders desperately searched for reusable materials like metals and iron sheets. 

Furniture trader Mwangi Kinuthia was devastated. Several of his clients were to collect their items this week.

"This is a double tragedy.  My customers' items are destroyed and my tools are ruined. I don't know where to start and how I will feed my family," Mwangi said.

Mama Shiru, who also trades in furniture could not hold back tears as she watched the ashes of what had been the source of her daily bread.

The had been trading in beds and seats for five years.

"I received a call about the fire and arrived here at around 5am.  Unfortunately, the fire had spread so fast and nothing could be salvaged from the shop," she said.

The chairman of the market, David Kung'u, said the traders co-existed harmoniously and also ha no issues with the landowner.

"We have been in good terms with the landowner and we cannot say the fire was as a result of land disputes. Traders pay rent and that is how we have been operating," he said.

Ann Mwendwa, the county chief officer in charge of Disaster Management Coordination,  said firefighters arrived promptly and put out the blaze.

"Most of the items were made of timber and the fire spread fast. However the fire team managed to put out the fire before it spread to the nearby residential houses," Mwendwa said.

Deputy Director of  Nairobi Fire Station Brian Kisali said the fire was reported at 04.35 hours and the fire engines arrived 10 minutes later.

"Water was supplemented by four Nairobi city water bowsers.  We suspect the cause of the fire was as a result of overheated machinery igniting nearby flammable materials.  The fire spread  very fast," he said,

Kenya Power was also counting losses. Its posts and wires were destroyed.

Market fires are frequent in Nairobi. In March this year, property worth millions of shillings went up in smoke at Toi market in Kibera.

Gikomba market suffered the same fate in April.  Hardly a year passes before a fire is reported in Gikomba.

Githurai 45 MCA Naftali Mathenge asked both the Nairobi county and national governments to address the issue of market fires.

"These market fires happen either at night or very early in the morning when the market is still closed," Mathenge said.