In less than a week, fire savagely attacks two public markets in Haiti
On sunday 18, Marché du Port burning / Credit: Loop Haiti
In less than a week, two public markets caught fire in Port-au-Prince during the short month of February. First, the market Hyppolite, destroyed in the earthquake of January 12 and rebuilt by telephone company Digicel burns on the evening of the first day of the National Carnival (February 11). More than 60% of the southern part of the Hyppolite Market was destroyed and the flames took away goods from many small traders who are now in tears.
Then, on February 18, in full daylight on Sunday, another public market named Marché du Port or "Mache Milyon" by its occupants and regulars, located not too far from the Hyppolite market, is attacked by another fire. That second incident came and fed more rumors about criminal hands and intentions hidden behind these shocking episodes.
Tears and surprise...
In turn, the two fires surprised and broke the hearts of dozens of small traders who cried sweat and tears because of the ravages of their livelihood by the flames. The fires have also clearly demonstrated that the Haitian Governement is not yet ready to face such situations and that the population, instead of relying on the authorities to protect them, would be better off to opt for caution and protection and prevention.
As a result of these two incidents, the debates fluctuate between the amount of damage caused by the flames and the origin of the fires. But a wind of good news suddenly blew at the beginning of the week following the second incident. While usually, in Haiti, investigations take time to never communicate concrete results, we know, for this time, that at least the second fire was caused involuntarily by a man who has already been questioned by the police, as part of an investigation.
Accidental or criminal?
We are almost at the end of this first episode. But on the first fire, many questions still remain. Among the questions on the latter, the most present is "what was the origin of the fire?” When we know we were in a carnival when that happened.
Reacting in the press the next day, Digicel Chairman Maarten Boute said it was "very likely" that the fire was accidental. At the base of what the Haitian President has treated as a tragedy, Boute suspects the state of extreme insalubrity of the area surrounding the market and the habit that the inhabitants of Anba Lavil are giving themselves - to burn the waste around the building, during the night.
"The information gathered from the guards and witnesses who were present clearly indicates that the fire started outside the back of the market," he said in an interview with Loop Haiti, pointing out that there was wind that night, and that perhaps at the moment of the calcination of the jumble, the fire would have reached the market.
On the other hand, the Office of the Secretary of State for Public Security has a position quite opposite to that of the Director of the Red Company. In a press note signed by the Director Ronsard Saint-Cyr, it is written: "the first elements of investigation seem to indicate that the disaster would be of criminal nature [...]". A hypothesis well received by those who harbor suspicions as to the origin of the fire.
Manage the urgency of desperate merchants
In the meantime, we must manage the urgency in which the hundreds of small merchants are plunged because of these dramas. The Government announced Monday the creation of an interministerial commission to accompany the victims of the two damanged markets. The authorities are already working, according to a statement from the Ministry of Communication, on the recapitalization of merchants and the reconstruction of the market.
Identification, censuses, financial allocation, a set of points is what the Government calls the action plan of the commission created under the recommendation of the President of the Republic, Jovenel Moise.
The investigation continues ...
The investigation, as for it, as always, continues on the fire of the first market. The latest news about it is related to the invitation launched from the Attorney General of the Government, Clamé Ocnam Daméus to the head of the Digicel, Maarten Boute. Boute, who says he is "respectful of the institutions of the country (Haiti)" from which he now holds citizenship, the businessman of Belgian origin, who is not in Haiti at the moment, is willing to meet the Commissioner, once he’s back to Haiti.
"I received the Commissioner's invitation and I'm going to get there without any problem," said Boute, in a telephone interview with Loop Haiti's editorial team, before noon today, without making any further comments.
This is not the first time that the Hyppolite market is hit by fire. May 2008, the flames destroyed part of it and the earthquake of January 12, 2010 finished it. Between 2010 and 2011, Digicel financed all of its reconstruction, with a budget of 18 million US dollars. For now, funding for the reconstruction of Hyppolite market by Digicel is not yet on the table, said Boute.