AWEIL, SOUTH SUDAN —
Dozens of shops and thousands of dollars’ worth of property were destroyed in an overnight fire Thursday at a market in Aweil, the capital of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state.
No one was injured in the blaze at Ayuang market, which broke out around three a.m. and was brought under control an hour later. Traders say the fire brigade was slow to respond.
Furniture seller, William Agok, said he lost everything, including his car.
Abas Osman said he lost around 50,000 to 60,000 South Sudanese pounds' worth of property.
“When the fire erupted, we tried to save the burning properties, but we couldn’t," he said.
"I'm the owner of this shop, and I also have a restaurant and three refrigerators and my losses are big."
The fire is not the first to gut Ayuang. A blaze tore through the market last year, too, said Mayor Dubek Atak Longar as he sympathized with shop-owners and stall holders.
“It’s a total, great disaster to the traders of Ayuang who are working here, and is not the first," he said.
Longar said a committee has been set up to evaluate the extent of the damage and investigate the cause. Some shop owners suspect the fire may have accidentally been started by people preparing early-morning meals.
Some traders are complaining the fire was allowed to get out of control because the local fire brigade is not adequately trained or equipped.
"They don’t have fire-extinguishers and other tools necessary to control outbreaks,” said Abas, the restaurant and shop-owner whose properties were gutted in the blaze.
Victor Madut, the deputy director of Aweil’s fire brigade, said the firefighters are well trained, but lack the equipment needed to tackle blazes -- including vehicles to transport them to fires.