A major fire blasted through the city of Hargeisa in northern Somalia overnight, injuring over two dozen people and destroying hundreds of businesses.
Flames and massive billowing clouds of smoke could be seen in the night sky over the city, which is the capital of Somaliland’s breakaway region.
The origin of the fire that destroyed the vast Waheen market, the city’s lifeblood and home to an estimated 2,000 stores and stalls, has yet to be determined.
Officials said the fire started on Friday evening but was mostly put out by daylight on Saturday, but some minor spots remained ablaze.
Hargeisa’s mayor, Abdikarim Ahmed Mooge, told reporters at the scene, “The town has never witnessed such a massive calamity.”
“This place was the economic center of Hargeisa and even though the firefighters did their best to contain the fire, the market was destroyed.”
He said that the fire might have been brought under control before causing such severe damage, but that access issues impeded the firefighters’ efforts.
The massive market is a maze of businesses and improvised stalls, with no true streets and only narrow pathways.
The loss of the market, as per Hargeisa chamber of commerce chairman Jamal Aideed, was significant since it accounted for 40 % of the city’s economy.
“I have lost everything tonight, this fire was the biggest I have ever seen in my life,” said market trader Bashi Ali.
“I had several businesses in the market and all of them burned to ashes. All we can learn from this disaster is to plan the market well,” he added