The Ministry of Interior said on Saturday they did not yet know what caused Thursday night’s massive fire in Kabul city but that the blaze spread quickly after a fuel storage unit in the area caught fire.
A fire broke out on Thursday night at about 6pm in Khairkhwa Market in Nadir Pashtun Street in Kabul’s PD1. Three busy shopping centers and numerous shops in the immediate area were gutted.
At least 1,000 shopkeepers lost everything in the fire. The shopping centers mostly sold electronic goods, household appliances and mobile phones.
Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said the fire raced through the area when a fuel storage unit belonging to a telecommunications company caught fire. According to Danish, the storage unit had the capacity to hold 5,000 liters of fuel.
He also said the presence of flammable items in the shops also exacerbated the fire but said firefighters managed to stop the fire from expanding to other markets, the finance ministry and residential areas.
“At the back of Khairkhwa Market, the area is completely an unplanned area. There are wooden and metal booths which limited the firefighters and their vehicles from getting close and in some cases it was not possible for the vehicles to enter the area,” said Danish.
But a number of shop owners said their shops were looted and goods stolen not only by members of the public but also by police and firefighters.
Danish rejected the claims and said the shopkeepers’ goods were removed in the presence of the shopkeepers and they have received no formal complaints in this regard.
A number of owners of the shops meanwhile confirmed three shopping centers that mostly sold electronic devices and mobile phones completely burned down.
“I am the breadwinner of eight people in my family and my mother is sick. I lost whatever I had. Today when I left home, I borrowed 2,000 AFs,” Mohammad Emal Pesarlay, a shopkeeper said.
Shopkeepers said some parts of the market were still smoldering on Saturday.
“It is about two days that the fire has not stopped. We want the government to first stop the fire and then help us get back on our feet,” Abdul Raqib, another shopkeeper said.
“Three markets have completely burned down. The financial loss is very high,” Ahmad Nadi, a shopkeeper said.
“All the properties of people burned and many of them were looted,” Ahmad, another shopkeeper said.
The shopkeepers on Saturday wanted to hold a sit-in protest in Nadir Pashtun Street, but the interior ministry said they prevented the move because an evacuation process had not yet finished.
The fire destroyed at least 1,000 shops causing millions of dollars in losses.