Manama: A fire has destroyed half of an open air flea market in central Bahrain, wiping out dozens of stalls hours before they were due to open for their weekly two-day business.
No one was injured in the three-hour blaze that started at around 7.44pm on Thursday, but several fire fighters needed treatment for smoke inhalation.
The Civil Defence needed 46 personnel and 18 fire engines to put out the flames that engulfed the traditional market in Isa Town, around 10km south of the capital Manama.
Hundreds of traders earn their living from the market, known locally as Suq Al Magasees, where various household items, clothes, birds, vegetables, furniture, shoes and old possessions are sold and bought in a mood that combines good feelings with bargaining skills.
On Friday, the southern part was open and several traders displayed their products in their allocated stalls or on the grounds.
“We are of course deeply upset over the tragedy, but we have to continue earning a living,” Zuhair, one of the traders, said from behind a small table.
His own stall and those of his brother and father had been gutted by the fire.
“The losses are enormous and [we] pray [to] God to compensate us in His wise ways as our products were not insured. My father who sold electrical equipment has lost everything and we do try to be resilient and have faith in the future,” he said.
For Ahmad, a fourth-grade student, the market was the place where he had always made his best bargains, buying birds.
“I heard about the fire and I feel sad,” he said as he showed off his parrot. “I come down here every weekend and I enjoy looking at the birds. They are so lovely and so fascinating. When I have money, I do buy one or two and I am then the happiest person on earth. But, today, I am sad because of what happened last night,” he said.
The open air market was gutted in a more destructive fire in July 2012, with Prime Minister Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa ordering a full 1 million Bahraini dinar (Dh9.69 million) revamp of the premises. More than 300 traders were compensated for their losses by the government.
The new facilities, better equipped to deal with fire risks, are due to open soon.