Hargeisa: Huge fire destroys market in Somali breakaway region | News

Waheen Market, home to about 2,000 shops and stalls, was consumed by the fire that began Friday night.

A massive fire tore through the main market in the northern Somali city of Hargeisa overnight, injuring about two dozen people and destroying hundreds of businesses, officials said Saturday.

Images posted on social media showed flames and huge plumes of smoke billowing across the night sky over the city, the capital of breakaway Somaliland.

The cause of the fire that consumed the vast Waheen market – the lifeblood of the city and home to about 2,000 shops and stalls – has yet to be determined.

Officials said it began Friday night but was largely under control by dawn on Saturday, although some small areas were still burning.

Hargeisa Mayor Abdikarim Ahmed Moge told reporters at the scene: “The town has never seen such a huge disaster.

“This place is the economic center of Hargeisa and although the firefighters tried their best to contain the fire, the market was destroyed.”

He said the fire could have been brought under control before causing such extensive damage but firefighters’ efforts were hampered by access problems.

The vast market was a crowded collection of makeshift shops and stalls, with no proper streets, only narrow aisles.

Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi said during a visit to Waheen that about 28 people, nine of them women, were injured, but there have been no reports of casualties so far.

He said the government would release $1 million to help with emergency disaster response.

Chamber of Commerce President Hargeisa Jamal Aideed said the market loss was huge as it accounts for 40 to 50 percent of the city’s economy.

“I lost everything tonight, this fire is the biggest I’ve seen in my life,” said market trader Bashi Ali.

“I have several businesses in the market and they all burn to ashes. All we can learn from this disaster is good market planning,” he added.

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