4 March 2010

Cameroon: Tiko Market In Ashes

Over 800 stores destroyed in the inferno but no life lost.

Smiles are rare in Tiko as the population is yet to understand what has befallen their most cherished market. The inferno that ravaged the entire market with over 800 stores, started at about 6 pm on Tuesday, March 2. Attempts by the population and the security forces proved futile as the fire blazed alarmingly. Traders wept as they helplessly watched the fire consume their goods worth millions. The cause of the fire is yet to be established but eyewitnesses told CT that it emanated from a store in "Line One, Street Five Gate".

The fire could have been extinguished if water was available. But the Tiko municipality has no fire fighting unit and there are no taps inside or at the precincts of the market. Fire fighters came in late from Douala after the fire had already consumed the entire market. When CT visited Tiko yesterday, hundreds of curious onlookers were at the scene. In tears, some wept but were kept at bay by security forces. Angry traders, victims of the inferno, were bitter and poured blame on the Tiko Council. "We have asked for taps to be put inside and outside the market. But the Tiko Council has not listened to our plea. If we had water, the flames would have been brought under control," laments Njume Loko, a Tiko based musician now doing business. "I'm pleading for the government to rebuild this market very fast if not Tiko will be a desert," he said. "We have been used to fire incidents in the Tiko Market. But this is the worst disaster in the annals of this town. No store or shop in the market has been spared," a victim, in tears, told CT.

Alerted, the Governor of the South West Region, Koumpa Issa and other senior officials were at the Tiko Market to see for themselves the scope of the disaster. At press time yesterday, a crisis committee was set up and its members visited the market for an evaluation. The cost of goods and material lost is yet to be established but it will certainly be in millions of CFA francs. It should be recalled that fire disasters occur at the Tiko Market almost on a yearly basis. But this year's incident is so alarming that the area resembles a bombed war zone. Hope lessons will be learnt once and for all.

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