Gikomba burns again

A section of Gikomba Market burned down last night destroying millions worth of property as firefighters from Nairobi County battled to put out the inferno.

According to the Kenya Redcross, the fire started in the Dispensary at Gashosho area at around 1 am.

There were no reported casualties, according to the police, who are still trying to determine what started the fire.

Francis Kimathi, the chairperson of Gashosho Market Traders told NTV that he received a call about the fire last night and tried to rally traders to come and aid in putting out the inferno.

According to Kimathi, this is the second blaze to torch that section of Gikomba.

“We started trading in this market in 1982 and we have never had any challenges. It is only in 2015 when a fire burnt a small section of this part of the market,” he said.

Social media users shared images and videos of a massive fire at the risky market where vendors were frantically trying to save their goods and property.

Millions of people are estimated to rely directly and indirectly on Gikomba, Kenya’s largest informal market for secondhand clothing, shoes, and furniture.

There have been claims that disputes over land ownership among tenants of county-owned homes, potential land squatters, and traders have fueled the ongoing fires.

Gikomba has burned in the past ten years, with the exception of 2011, 2013, and 2016. Since 2010, the market has burned at least ten times, with three of those occurrences occurring in June of 2015, 2018, 2020 and 2021.

In February, there were two further events, one in 2019 and the other in 2020. Three earlier events in June including the one in 2018 that claimed 15 lives. Two other incidents occurred in October, one each in 2014 and 2017. In October and November 2021, at least three fires were reported – on October 19, November 8, and November 26.

It’s interesting to note that the majority of fires begin quite early in the morning. March 2012, May 2014, and September 2010 all saw more instances.

Even though President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a directive in 2017 to look into the origin of the fires, the results of their inquiry have never been made public.

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