Disasters & Accidents

Fire devastates market in Haiti

Port-au-Prince, May 4 (EFE).- Much of a popular street market just outside the Haitian capital was destroyed that broke out late Wednesday and continued into the early hours of the morning.

“We lost a lot, everything burned,” one woman told EFE Thursday amid the ruins of the Shada Market in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petion-Ville.

A charcoal seller said that the blaze erupted around 11:00 pm Wednesday and continued for hours.

Although news of the fire spread quickly, the level of insecurity amid the gang war raging in the capital area deterred merchants and residents from coming out to douse the flames.

While news website Juno7 reported that firefighters were unable to bring the blaze under control because of a water shortage.

Roughly 1,000 merchants lost all their inventory to the fire, which some residents suggested was deliberately set by one of the gangs.

Preliminary indications are that the fire began in the section of the market occupied by sellers of perfumes and cosmetics, many of them containing highly flammable chemicals.

Vendors wiped out by the fire, many with tears in their eyes, told EFE that they will seek recovery assistance from authorities.

Arson was suspected in the majority of the more than 50 fires at public markets in Haiti during the last 35 years.

The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere has seen its economy worsen in recent years due to spiraling inflation and shortages aggravated by the near collapse of the state and the increasing power of well-armed gangs.

“Gang violence is expanding at an alarming rate in areas previously considered relatively safe in Port-au-Prince and outside the capital,” Maria Isabel Salvador, head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), told the UN Security Council last week.

Between April 14 and April 19, according to BINUH, 70 people died in gang clashes in Cite Soleil, the largest slum in the Haitian capital.

The number of murders, rapes, and kidnappings more than doubled in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period of 2022, from 692 to 1,694, the Ecuadorian businesswoman and former government official said. EFE mm/dr

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