Big Losses Reported Following Rangoon Market Fire

By Nang Seng Nom 11 January 2016

RANGOON — A massive fire at the Mingalar Market in Rangoon early Saturday morning has caused more than 36.6 million kyats (US$2.7 million) in damages, affecting 1,636 shops and injuring a firefighter, according to the Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township Police.

The township police station said the electrical fire was sparked as men at a shop on the fourth floor of the market complex were welding a roller door at about 11 pm on Friday, with the blaze reaching its peak at about 1:30 am on Saturday.

Police are interrogating five men who were installing the roller door, as well as the market’s electrical supervisor.

“We have opened a case against those six men,” the chief of Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township Police Station told The Irrawaddy.

The Mingalar Market Management Committee said temporary spaces would be provided at Mingalar and nearby Shwe Mingalar markets to shop owners whose properties were damaged in the fire.

Kyaw Kyaw Latt, a drugstore owner at Mingalar Market, told The Irrawaddy: “My house is close to Mingalar Market. But I did not see any welding. I only saw fire engulfing the market on four sides. [Shop owners] are allowed to do welding for their shops.”

The market also saw an electrical fire in May 2010, and since then its management committee has prohibited shop owners from using electricity on their own. Power sockets were removed from shops and the electrical supervisor of the market was assigned the duty to provide lighting between 8 am and 5 pm. Shop owners wanting access to electricity other than lighting must make special arrangements with relevant market authorities.

Kyaw Kyaw Latt said that although both fire outbreaks in recent memory were blamed on faulty electricity, Saturday’s blaze was notable for the speed with which it wrought devastation.

Sandar Lin, a store owner, echoed that sentiment: “The fire has caused a great loss to shop owners. When I first saw the fire, it was taking place on four sides [of the market]. In the previous fire outbreak, fire spread from one shop to another and lasted the whole day. However, this time it caused great loss in a short time.”