16 July 2014

Rwanda: Nyabugogo Fire Brings Business to Standstill

Business came to a standstill in Nyabugogo, a Kigali business hub yesterday at around 11:15am when fire broke out at a complex that houses more than 10 businesses including a lodge and several wholesale outlets.

Muhammed Shaffeque, Afrifoam and Simaco manager, looks at his razed property.

The fire broke out less than 24 hours after another fire gutted a maize milling plant in Gikondo's industrial area with both incidents linked to electrical fault.

No injuries were sustained or lives lost in yesterday's incident but businesses in the building counted heavy losses as most of them were wholesale dealers with fully stocked premises. Not much property was salvaged from the inferno.

The fire, which according to police was caused by an electrical fault in one of the mattress depots on the first floor on the one-storey building, razed five business premises and damaged a few others.

A trader with some of his salvaged property. Property worth millions of francs was lost in the fire.

Kigali Police Spokesperson Superintendent Modeste Mbabazi ruled out arson as the cause of the fire, saying that investigations showed that naked electrical wires and an overloading of power outlets had triggered the fire in one of the mattress shops.

He said the mattress shop was between two other mattress shops, making it hard to put out the fire. It took the police about 1 hour and 45 minutes to put out the blaze.

Mbabazi said the police response was swift with fire fighting trucks arriving at the scene in about 15 minutes after the fire outbreak while the Rwanda Defence Forces fire fighters followed shortly after to complement efforts.

He urged owners of businesses and buildings to ensure proper wiring of their premises and install fire extinguishers which can be useful in the event of minor fires.

"The first step towards ensuring that such incidents do not occur is for owners of buildings to see to it that electrical installations are not faulty, have fire extinguishers and have access and escape routes," Mbabazi said.

Juvenal Munyagaciro, who manages the building on behalf of the owner, said though not much was salvaged from the rooms mostly affected by the fire, the police response to the incident was fast, noting that they managed to contain the fire before it spread to other parts of the building.

Muhammed Shaffeque, the manager of Afrifoam and Simaco group, one of the burnt businesses, said property worth Rwf10 million was lost in the fire.

Mbabazi urged businesses to observe minimum fire safety standards in order to guard their premises against fire, noting that the building did not meet most of the standards to deal with cases of fire outbreaks.

The two recent fire incidents came after new instructions and regulations to enforce existing fire safety laws in the country were issued last week.

The regulations were published in the Official Gazette late last week, and on Monday, the government issued a six-month ultimatum to all public structures to abide by the regulations.

According to the new regulations and standards, public buildings and places should within the next six months have at minimum; a fire alarm system with an alarm bell on each floor, smoke detectors and sprinklers, a fire extinguisher every 50 metres on each floor, hose reels on each floor, closed circuit television cameras and a control room, and a lightning arrester or rod.

Fires have increasingly becoming a menace in the last two months with the police pointing to poor electrical installations as the main cause.

This month has so far seen four fires, including at Rubavu prison, Quartier Matheus, Gikondo and Nyabugogo.

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