Counting losses after Bujumbura market fire By PHOCAS KANUNI in Bujumbura | Tuesday, January 29  2013 at  12:16

The Bujumbura central market being consumed by fire on Sunday. PHOCAS KANUNI| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Bujumbura's central market was gutted on Sunday morning, with Burundi's fire brigade failing completely to control the fire.

Fire trucks arrived late and were not able to penetrate into the market because of the violence of the flames, which went as high as 20 metres.

"The fire started around 6:45 am; we alerted the security services of the SOGEMAC (Bujumbura Market Management Company). They came, but they went back and returned after a while as the fire spread without any intervention," said one witness, who is also one of the night watchmen at the biggest market in the country.

The situation was made worse by looters who were difficult to distinguish from the owners of goods in the market.

First Vice-President Terence Sinunguruza called an urgent security meeting over incident. Speaking to local media, Mr Sinunguruza said that security measures had been tightened to stop the spread of fire.

He promised that the government will meet with victims to study their cases. For the time being, the urgent thing was to deal with fire.

The Minister of Public Security announced that Rwanda had promised to send a helicopter to assist while other countries in the region, including Kenya, could not immediately assist because their equipment was not appropriate to this kind of situation.

The Rwandan aircraft arrived at around 13:30, but by then the flames had destroyed everything.

Reliable sources say that around 90 per cent of goods in the market were not insured.