Zambians count losses as market goes up in flames

Counting losses. A section of the Soweto market in the Zambian capital Lusaka that was gutted on July 4, 2017. MICHAEL CHEWA 

Several traders in Zambia are counting their losses after an inferno burnt their wares and properties at the largest market in the capital Lusaka.

The government said the inferno at the Soweto market was an act "of arson and economic sabotage".

"About half of Lusaka's city market has been gutted and property worth millions of Kwacha has been destroyed in an inferno that started around 05:00 hours this morning (Tuesday)," a local radio station reported.

TV footage showed flames and wailing marketers as they watched their property burn to ashes.

Toured the area

Fire fighters were dispatched to the scene and later the Vice-President, Mr Inonge Wina, toured the area.

Authorities were yet to establish the cause of the fire.

A 37-year-old mother of three identified only as Belita said: "I have lost everything I was relying on, I don't even know how to restart my life."

Several of the Soweto traders lost almost everything from vehicle spare parts to clothes and food.

There have been several cases of fires on public property, with one reported in the Copperbelt Province, where a power supply line was cut and burnt, plunging Ndola city into darkness.

Politically motivated

It was widely being speculated the fires were politically motivated.

President Edgar Lungu said: "Let me warn that those engaging in acts bordering on economic sabotage will surely be brought to justice."

"We'll find you wherever you're hiding. The long arm of the law will not fail Zambians in this endeavour. The law will protect public good and order," he said in a statement issued from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where he was due to leave after the AU summit

"To all victims of today' (Tuesday) fire incident, my government and I stand with you during this difficult moment, president Lungu said.

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