Part of the Latrikunda Sabiji Market has been burned down to ashes in the early hours of Friday morning with vendors claiming to have lost goods valued at millions of Dalasi.
The fire incident was said to have broke out at about 3am but all those who spoke to the Daily Observer at the scene said they cannot quantify the cost of the destruction of the items destroyed by the fire outbreak.
According to eyewitnesses, the fire was caused by an electrical spark durng lightening and heavy wind on Friday morning. The Gambia Fire and Rescue Services arrived at the scene on time but couldn’t access the market because of the narrow path in the Market.
Rohey Sallah, a victim told the Daily Observer that the fire has consumed her entire shop with items worth D25, 000 in a joint business with her husband.
Assan Secka, another victim, said the fire has destroyed about quarter of the entire market, adding that he lost over D200, 000 worth of items. He said the inferno has burnt down a lot of shops and canteens, leaving behind total devastation of the livelihood of many victims. According to Secka, the outbreak reached a point where it was impossible to control it but gave praises to Allah the Almighty that no lives were lost in the fire.
Another victim, Abdoulie Jawla, who informed the Daily Observer that he has been doing his business at the said Market for the past 27 years, said he has lost goods valued at over D25, 000.
Dawda Kebbeh, also a victim, said the lack of better accessibility to the different parts of the market contributed to this big loss, noting that rescue efforts proved futile due to the tight spaces between the canteens.
“Many of us (victims) who rushed to the scene that early morning could not help ourselves in any way as all our goods have been reduced to ashes,” a dumbfounded Kebbeh informed the Daily Observer.
According to Kebbeh, there were some vendors who left their money overnight only to discover that the fire had burnt it to ashes, adding that the outbreak at the market was heartbreaking.
Another victim, Isatou Cham, noted that she lost everything in her shop. “By the time of the incident we tried all efforts to take out our items from the shops but it was impossible all because of the tiny roads in the market,” Madam Cham said.
Mamadi Fatty, another victim said he has been doing business in the market for the past 10 years stressing that he has lost over D20, 000 worth of items, noting that he got to know of the incident at about 5am Friday morning.
According to Fatty, everything he had in his shop perished under the fire. He further explained that by the time he arrived at the market the damage was already done. He called on the Management of the Kanifing Municipal Council and other agencies in and outside the country to come to their aid.
Salifu Sawo, a tailor by profession, said he had opened his workshop at the market more than a decade ago, noting that he lost four expensive sewing machines to the fire.
Kemo Drammeh, a resident of Latrikunda Sabiji said the fire was exagerrated by some people. “The Latrikunda Sabiji Market is so huge that if what people had claimed that the entire Market was burnt down, it would’ve been a huge economic loss to the country,” he said.
Speaking to the Daily Observer at the scene of the incident, the Mayor of the Kanifing Municipality, Alhaji Yankuba Colley described the incident as very shocking. While announcing immediate plans to construct a modern market at Latrikunda Sabiji, he appealed to other well-meaning individuals and groups to support the victims of the fire.
According to Mayor Colley, when the news of the incident broke out in town, the market was filled with sympathisers, adding that the Latrikunda Sabiji Market is a ‘Tesito’ market, meaning it is not entirely owned by his Municipality.
“I can’t apprehend what had happened here at the market and I concur with people that there are tiny roads in the market that made it difficult for people to have easy access to the fire,” Mayor Colley added.
Asked to give the actual estimate of the damage caused by the fire in the market, Mayor Colley said it would take some time to give an accurate estimate of the loss.
He acknowledged that it would be difficult for the affected vendors to start over their businesses again as they have lost everything in their shops or canteens. He noted that it is only Allah the Almighty that can come to their aid.
by Lamin B. Darboe