CHISHALA MUSONDA, Ndola
A 30-YEAR-OLD man has been arrested for allegedly causing the fire which swept through over 3,000 stalls and destroyed property worth millions of Kwacha at Kapalala market in Ndola’s Masala township yesterday.
Police have also detained 12 people for allegedly looting property during the confusion caused by the inferno at the second largest market on the Copperbelt, after Chisokone in Kitwe.
Copperbelt commissioner of police Charity Katanga said police arrested the suspect and detained 12 people who allegedly looted traders’ goods.
“We have arrested a 30-year-old man, an off-loader. He has been charged with criminal recklessness and negligence. I cannot disclose the name of the suspect. As you know people are annoyed, we don’t want him to be attacked,” Mrs Katanga said.
She said the suspect prepared a brazier and when it was fully lit around midnight, he decided to offload charcoal from a truck which had just arrived at the market.
Mrs Katanga said when the suspect heard an explosion from where the brazier was, he rushed back but found that the fire had already started spreading to other parts of the market and he bolted.
“He ran away but since he is known, we investigated the matter, caught him and established what happened. He has been warned and cautioned, officially arrested and will appear in court tomorrow [today].
“He was brought to the scene this [yesterday] morning and told us what transpired,” she said.
Earlier, traders, mainly women, wept helplessly as they watched their stalls being destroyed by the raging fire.
Fire fighters from the Ndola City Council, Luanshya Municipal Council, Indeni and Zambia Airports Corporation could not put out the fire in good time because there are no vehicle access roads to the market.
A Mitsubishi Canter which had delivered fresh farm produce in readiness for sale, wheelbarrows used to ferry various goods, sewing machines and bicycles, among others, were all destroyed in the fire.
Bernadette Chileshe, 71, who sleeps and sells her goods at the market, said she was awakened when other alert traders saw some smoke billowing from the market stalls.
“This was around 24:00 hours and the Fire Brigade came around 02:00 hours, but the fire was just so huge that they couldn’t stop it.
“We had to move away and stand at a distance watching helplessly, not knowing what do as the fire spread to the whole market,” Ms Chileshe said.
She said while some traders were trying to secure their commodities, unscrupulous people took advantage of the situation to loot merchandise.
Ndola mayor Amon Chisenga, town clerk Wisdom Bwalya, district commissioner George Chisulo and other civic leaders rushed to the scene around 01:00 hours and found the whole market on fire.
Mr Chisenga, who was in the company of Ndola Central member of Parliament Emmanuel Mulenga and his Bwana Mkubwa counterpart Jonas Chanda, assured the affected traders of Government’s assistance.
Another trader, Emelda Muyani, 49, said she lost goods such as beans, groundnuts and tomatoes worth about K20,000. Ms Muyani was at a funeral when she received a phone call around 02:00 hours informing her about the fire.
And Michael Sinyinza from Mbala had just supplied 17 bags of beans to traders at the market and had not yet collected money.
“I only sold one bag and gave out the rest and they have not given me the money. I only have K20 on me and I don’t know what to do now.
“At the moment, there is nothing I can do and I have three school-going children to care for in Mbala,” he said.