Enormous Fire in Market Destroys 1,500 Shops

August 8, 2008

Broken fire hydrants were the nail in the coffin for an estimated 1,500 shops turned to ashes in Nicaragua’s largest market fire in recent memory last weekend.

The blaze burned for more than 14 hours in Managua’s sprawling Mercado Oriental.

Of 60 fire hydrants in and around the market, only two worked during the fire, according to President Daniel Ortega. The majority had been vandalized by looters or had no pressure while the rest were inaccessible due to the fire and other obstructions.

Firefighters shipped in water from nearly a kilometer away.

At the peak of the blaze, Nicaraguan firefighters called on Costa Rican and Honduran counterparts for reinforcements, but called them off upon containing the fire. Authorities are investigating the fire’s cause.

Mercado Oriental’s growth has been notoriously slapdash since being largely demolished by the 1972 earthquake. Said to be Central America’s largest, the market is a “web” of electrical wiring and has “eaten various Managua neighborhoods” in its growth, Ortega said.

Devastated shop owners were to meet with Managua officials this week to discuss reconstruction plans that include building an access road for emergency vehicles in the market. Affected shop workers may receive tax breaks, Ortega said.

 

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