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Gikomba traders count losses after latest fire incident

Once again, traders at Gikomba Market are counting their losses after goods of unknown value were gutted in a mysterious fire on Monday.

The fire affected the section of the Mitumba (old clothes) where most traders usually store their commodities.

The exact damage or cause of the fire is yet to be determined.

Traders who lost stalls in the mysterious fire said they were alerted to the incident at around 1am on Monday.

Nairobi county fire engines arrived at the scene and had a hard time battling the flames that rose high and burned relentlessly due to the wooden stands used by the traders as shelters and stands to support their commodities.

Incidentally, the fire outbreak comes two days after the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) received the court’s nod to evict a section of traders dealing with secondhand clothes within the open-air market to pave way for expansion of the neighbouring Pumwani Majengo Health Centre.

The 174 traders operating at Gacucu Gikomba open-air market wanted the court to stop NMS from threatening or interfering with their occupation of the land pending a hearing of their case.

In August, over 900 traders at Gikomba sued the Nairobi County government demanding Sh20 billion in compensation over frequent fires at the market.

In a case before the High Court, the traders want the county government to pay them for direct financial loss and compensation for loss of business opportunity and re-establishment costs.

The traders have listed 15 fire incidences since 2015 saying the frequent occurrences show that the county government has failed to take any or adequate precautions for their safety and that of the public while doing their business at Gikomba Market.

The traders, for example, cited a fire incident that occurred at Gikomba Market on June 28, 2018, in which 15 people died while hundreds sustained severe injuries.

Gikomba market, the biggest open-air market in the country, has suffered numerous fires in recent times, which has even caught the attention of State House.

Last month, fire gutted a section of the market, leading to losses amounting to millions of shillings.

Past promises by the government to rein in on the menace have not been successful, even after President Uhuru Kenyatta promised stiff action would be taken against anyone found culpable.

A probe ordered by the President in 2017 is yet to provide conclusive answers and there has been numerous fire outbreaks since then.

There have been allegations that land ownership tussles between tenants in county houses, suspected land grabbers and traders have fuelled the perennial fires.