Fire has razed down Elegu Market in Amuru District, at the Uganda-South Sudan border.
Preliminary reports indicate the fire started at about 1 a.m. on Monday before spreading across the entire market structures made of bamboo poles, timber, and iron sheets.
Noah Katende, a businessman at Elegu Town Council says that the fire is suspected to have started from one of the shops centrally located inside the market.
According to Katende, the fire spread very fast, overpowering the traders and the community around the market.
“The market is completely burnt down, the fire spread very fast and couldn’t be put out,” Katende told Uganda Radio Network in an interview Monday.
Richard Omony, a wholesale trader in the area says the entire structure at the market has been burnt down in the inferno that lasted several hours.
He estimated that close to 500 traders who earn a living at the market lost their goods valued in billions of shillings.
Omony, however, says that it was unclear how the fire started before it engulfed the entire market.
Grace Bako, a businesswoman at Elegu market says she lost goods worth Sh 8 million in her retail shop.
“I couldn’t save anything at that time, the fire was too strong and spread very fast to other neighbouring shops and stalls,” She says.
Amuru Resident District Commissioner Geoffrey Osborn Oceng who rushed to the scene says the police couldn’t put out the fire since their Firefighting truck at Elegu Police station broke down about three months ago.
He said a fire fighting truck that responded from Gulu Central Police station arrived when the Market had been engulfed in flames.
Oceng blames the traders for negligence and failure to adhere to directives of erecting semi-permanent structures that can’t easily be destroyed by fire.
He also notes that the District local government had earlier allocated a market space for the traders, about 200 meters south of the current market but none of them accepted to relocate.
According to Oceng, they have now decided to halt any further establishment of temporary stalls at the market site adding that all traders have been directed to occupy the new site allocated by the district.
Oceng says security personnel will investigate the exact cause of the fire to ascertain whether it was accidental or intentionally ignited by an arsonist.
This is not the first time Elegu Market has been ruined by fire.
In 2019, a similar fire incident burnt down shops and stalls at the market, leaving close to 100 traders in losses