Jua Kali Traders Count Over 50 Million Loss As Mysterious Inferno Raze Their Stalls To Ashes.


Traders countin their loses after the Sunday night fire. Inset: the chairman Macharia Irungu (in stripes) and Anthony Kimani Kirathi, one of the victims talk to the press.

Property worth over sh. 50 million went up in smoke following a midnight inferno at Jua Kali Centre, Engen in Thika Sub-County.

The fire, whose cause could not be immediately established, is said to have started at around 11pm Sunday and spreading quickly to burn down more than thirty stalls and 6 vehicles belonging to clients. No one was injured in the incident.

Some of the victims alleged that the fire escalated and caused more damage as the Thika fire brigade could not reach the incident site on time following an earlier fire incident in Ruiru. It was however doused with the help of the fire-truck and the traders themselves. 

This is the third time Jua Kali-Engen is gutted by fire, this year alone with this case being the most serious one as it affected a very vast area of Jua Kali, totally consuming property worth more than sh. 50 million that were kept in stores.

According to the chairperson Jua Kali-Engen Traders Association Joseph Macharia Irungu, between 30 and 40% of the market was been reduced to ashes, putting the livelihoods of 50 traders, majority of whom operated spare parts kiosks and mechanics in the balance as they were unable to salvage anything.

“It was around 11:20pm when I received a distress call alarming me of a fire outbreak in Jua Kali. I immediately called the fire brigade who arrived about 15 minutes later as they had gone to put off another fire in Ruiru,” said Macharia. 

Macharia alleged that the manner under which the fire started was questionable. He said that the fire started from a lorry that had been packed in the yard for repair even though who or how it started still remained a mystery.

“Sincerely there are no live electric wires here and there was no power at night. Nobody cooks from that section of the yard. Fanned by the winds and some other explosives, the fire spread fast and it was hard to put it out as it moved to the adjacent stalls, leaving us scrambling for what we could salvage,” he said.

He added that the damage caused by the fire went beyond the face value of the goods destroyed because many of the traders had taken micro-loans to fund their businesses and must continue making the repayments as agreed with the lenders.

“It would be helpful if those who have extended loans to these traders to re-negotiate the repayment period. We are also asking the county government and other leaders and people of goodwill to help us rebuild their businesses,” he requested.

Anthony Kimani Kirathi, who sells vehicle paints and spare parts, lost stock and vehicle worth more than sh. 3 million. He claims that he doesn’t know where to start or what to do as this was his only source of livelihood. His only appeal was to well-wishers to come on board and help them re-build their businesses once again.

“I have lived all my life in this yard. My parents traded here and I joined the business immediately after school. I have actually invested heavily in two kiosks, one of which was being ran by my wife. I didn’t salvage anything. I have lost everything including my car,” said Kimani.

Kimani’s case is a replica of so many of the victims of the Sunday night fire.

It is not clear how long it will take for activity to resume in the jua kali but the traders plan to call for a Harambee sometimes this week to raise some cash to re-build their businesses.
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