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Authorities said Saturday that a massive fire at a central market in the northern Somali city of Harkiza on Friday night injured more than 20 people and destroyed hundreds of shops.
Pictures posted on social media showed fires and smoke rising at night over the capital, a Somali part of the country.
The cause of the fire at the sprawling vehicle market, the city’s lifeline of about 2,000 shops and boutiques, is still unknown.
Authorities said the fire spread Friday evening and was largely contained on Saturday, with small spots still burning.
“This city has never suffered such a catastrophe,” Harkiza Mayor Abdel Karim Ahmed Mohi told reporters at the scene of the fire.
“This place was the economic center of Harkiza, and despite firefighters doing everything they could to put out the fire, the market was destroyed,” he added.
He believed it was possible to control the fire before causing such great damage, but fire crews had trouble getting to the scene.
The market is overflowing with random stalls and shops, and narrow lanes intersect.
The leader of the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland (Somaliland), Musa Bihi Abdi, said when inspecting the Wahin market, about 28 people, nine of them women, were injured and there were no reports of deaths.
He confirmed that the government would allocate one million dollars to help with immediate action for the disaster.
Jamal Aideed, president of the Hargeisa Chamber of Commerce, said the loss was huge because the city’s economy represents 40 to 50 percent of the market.
British ministers, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have expressed their condolences to the victims.
“We are in close contact with Somali officials, our international partners and aid agencies operating in the country and are looking into what kind of assistance is needed,” African Minister Vicky Ford wrote on Twitter.
For its part, the International Organization for Migration in Somalia said in a tweet that the effects of the devastating fire had affected thousands of people, including migrant workers, and promised to cooperate with authorities to help the people.
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