Blaze Tears Through Mandalay’s Mingalar Market

By Zarni Mann 23 March 2016

MANDALAY — More than 200 shops were destroyed and many others partially burned in a powerful blaze in Mandalay’s Mingalar Market on Tuesday.

According to a statement by the City Municipal Department, some 480 shops are located in the main building of the three-story market, and half were completely razed. The fire broke out after the market closed Tuesday evening, preventing vendors from saving their goods.

Despite the heavy deployment of fire brigades, the fire continued to gain intensity, resulting in firefighters on-site categorizing it as a sever Level 7 outbreak.

According to Mandalay Division’s Central Fire Brigade, seven firefighters as well as one Red Cross volunteer sustained minor injuries and have been hospitalized.

“We estimate about 65 percent of the entire market was destroyed, according to our initial investigation. However, we are still looking into the cause of fire, the percentage of shops and apartments that were burned and the exact amount of goods that were destroyed,” said Than Zaw Oo, a divisional officer with the Central Fire Brigade.

While Mingalar market was turned into a three-story market venue in 1996, most of the shops are still on the ground and first floors, with the second floor primarily used for parking lots, offices and apartments for the municipal department’s staff.

Chief Minister of Mandalay Ye Myint visited the market place on Wednesday along with Mayor Aung Maung and called for a speedy clean-up process so that the market could be reopened as soon as possible. The mayor told The Irrawaddy that a temporary marketplace nearby would be opened once the investigation team had made the proper arrangements.

“If the building is still in good shape and secure enough, we will re-open the market after minor renovations and cleaning. If not, we will have to think about rebuilding or major restoration work for the safety of the shop owners and their customers,” Aung Maung said.

Yet these shop owners are worried about a potentially time-consuming rebuilding process and how this might drive up the cost of securing a venue to sell their goods. When a market is rebuilt in Burma, contractors often sell back the new shops at higher prices.

“We’ve lost everything we’d invested. We will not be able to buy back the new shops after they’ve been rebuilt. We don’t want to rebuild the market if we’ll only suffer as a result,” said Thwe Thwe San, whose grocery store was lost in the fire.

In February, The Irrawaddy reported the loss of over 300 homes due to a fire in Tenasserim Division’s Palaw Township and the displacement of over 1,200 people after a blaze tore through Namhsan Township in northern Shan State. In January, more than 1,600 shops were destroyed in a blaze in another Mingalar Market, in Rangoon.