CORRECTION: Epupa informal market catches fire

22 Jul 2013 10:20

By Tjikunda Kulunga
OPUWO, 22 JUL (NAMPA) – About 70 per cent of the Epupa Informal Open Market in Opuwo was destroyed by fire on Friday morning.
Nestoli Shalukeni, who runs a warehouse and storage facility at the informal open market where all vendors keep their stock and tools for storage, lost all his property as well as those of other vendors who had brought them there for safekeeping.
“The value of all the items lost is about N.dollars 300 000, and includes products and consumables as well as tools such as pots, containers, wheelbarrows and other equipment. Even money estimated at N.dollars 1 500 was lost in the flames,” Shalukeni explained.
It is not yet known what caused the fire, which was only noticed at about 01h00 on Friday morning, with attempts by both community members and Town Council officials to stop it having failed.
The market is situated behind the Agra shop in Opuwo.
Maria Lucas, 50, who resides at the market where she also does business, lost all her belongings after her shelter also caught fire.
A weeping Lucas told Nampa on Saturday that she was sleeping when the fire ignited her sleeping shelter, and she was awaken by a man. However, the fire was already too fierce to stop or for her to be able to rescue some of her properties.
“I am only left with the underwear I have on now. The rest of my clothing, money, national documents and stock are gone up in flames and reduced to ashes,” said Lucas, who was covered with a jacket and blanket given to her by friends.
Lucas, who is originaly from Ruacana, moved to Opuwo in 2008, and set up a stand at the Epupa Informal Open Market and settled there, using one site as business space and the other side as a room to sleep in.
Another victim of the fire was a disabled woman, Tuakala Huleniko, who had been doing business there since the establishment of the market in 1998.
Most victims also lost their containers which they used to brew traditional alcohol in. Others lost their stock of meat and baking flour.
All victims have called on the government to assist them in re-establishing their businesses to help sustain themselves and their children.
Some of the victims are youths, who are trying to make a living from trading in different products.
The issue of the relocation of the informal open market has been on the agenda of the town council of Opuwo for many years, and some residents now feel that it should rather not be reconstructed.
However, the place where the informal market has to be relocated to has also not been identified yet.
Opuwo mayor Tuarungua Kavari visited the open market on Friday to see the impact of the destruction.
He told this agency on Monday that there is very little they can do to assist the affected members, as there is no budget to assist or relocate them.
“We will put the issue on the Town Council agenda this week to see how we can resolve some of the issues pertaining to the current situation, and the relocation of the Epupa informal market in general,” noted Kavari.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Opuwo Town Council Alphons Tjitombo told this reporter that plans for the relocation of the informal market were in place, but it was going to be funded by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).
“The process to relocate the Epupa Informal Open Market is dependent on the speedy allocation of funds by the MTI to start the construction of proper facilities to be used as an open market,” he added.
The Epupa Informal Open Market is infamous for its unhygienic appearance, the selling of illegal products such as Ombike or Okandjembo, as well as other illegal products.