Uganda: Millions Lost As Fire Razes Elegu Market

By Julius Ocungi

Traders at Elegu Trading Centre in Amuru District near the Uganda-South Sudan border are in tears after a devastating fire razed down their business premises, burning properties worth millions of shillings.


According to eye witnesses, the fire began at about 3.40am on Tuesday morning from a restaurant before spreading to more than 40 shops, restaurants and bars that are mainly made of iron sheets, woods and bamboos.

Mr Osman Kemis Lomwarr, whose restaurant was destroyed, said he has lost property worth Shs20 million in the inferno.

“I was woken up by the noise from people shouting and the intense heat in my room, on coming out, I found my neighbour’s shop engulfed in flames and before long, mine caught fire,” Mr Lomwarr told Daily Monitor in an interview on Tuesday.

Mr Lomwarr said he was not able to save any of his property that included a generator, tents, fridges and utensils in the fire that razed for nearly two hours.

He, however, faulted police for failure to provide an emergency firefighting truck to put out the fire.

Ms Annet Katushabe, another trader operating a second-hand cloth shop, said all her merchandises got burnt to ashes in the inferno.

“I couldn’t save anything during that fire. I nearly died because I woke up when part of my shop where I sleep was on fire. I am left with nothing and I don’t know where to begin from,” Ms Katushabe said.

She estimated that property worth Shs12 million got destroyed, which she had bought with a loan she had acquired from a microfinance institution recently.

Mr Michael Otema, the vice chairperson of Elegu Business Community, however, said their earlier plea to police to have a stand by fire-fighting truck have been ignored over the years.

“Elegu is a bustling centre with numerous developing structures, there is need for police to provide a stand by fire truck so that traders don’t encounter problems in case of fire outbreak in future,” Mr Otema said.

Aswa regional police spokesperson Jimmy Patrick Okema, who visited the scene, regretted the incident but noted that the fire spread fast because the shops were congested and made of wooden structures.

Mr Okema acknowledged police failure to put out the fire saying the only fire-fighting truck is in Gulu District, 100 kilometers away from the scene.

He promised that Police will avail a fire-fighting truck soon for Elegu Police Post to help deal with challenges of fire in the area.

Mr Okema, however, advised traders to build permanent structures that cannot be easily burnt adding that police are investigating the cause of the fire.


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