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Fire guts shops in Lilongwe

Fierce fire on Tuesday consumed grocery and hardware shops close to main bus depot in Lilongwe Old Town destroying millions worth of property and goods in the process.

The fire broke out around 2pm at a minibus depot popularly known as Kachikungu and some owners of the burnt shops suspect that a faulty fridge in one of the shops caused the inferno. But vendors within the premises told The Daily Times that the owners, mostly Burundians, are careless as they allegedly cook and sleep in the shops.

Hell broke loose soon after the police arrived at the scene as the law enforcers were forced to use tear gas on the uncontrollable crowd, especially vendors who thronged the place purportedly to help rescue some merchandise and also benefit from the accident.

Firefighters responded in good time but due to insufficient water, fire engines had to return four times to get more water as the firemen struggled to dowse the raging flames.

Armed police formed a barricade on the entrance and exit of the depot which houses the shops to prevent looters, but eyewitnesses said valuables including cash had been ransacked by a group of people who had arrived earlier.

In an interview, one of the people whose goods were destroyed by the fire, Alex Kanyazira, claimed that a full container of grocery stuff worth about K10 million had been destroyed in the fire.

He, nevertheless, dismissed as baseless claims that the fire might have been started due to carelessness on the part of the people running the shops.

“We have no idea how it started. We just saw smoke and people had to run outside. I know people are saying a lot of things but not everything is true. When the police came, we tried to salvage a few things in the shop but it was too late and I have lost everything”, Kanyazira said.

Another woman who identified herself as Mrs Mkandawire sat desperately behind a few groceries she managed to save with the help of other well-wishers and could not believe what she had gone through.

“That’s one of my shops you see there and I cannot quantify as to how much I have lost but it is in millions. You must understand that some of the goods we sell, we do not buy on cash basis but we get them on credit and now I don’t know how to start repaying all that money,” she said.

Meanwhile police officers are still guarding the premises.

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