Early morning today (January 27, 2013) a fire erupted in Bujumbura’s central market, the cause of the fire is still unknown. At the beginning, passers-by saw heavy smoke and fierce flames. The fire became fiercer as the flames reached the part of the market where cooking oil is stocked. Burundi RCS and the Protection Civile were among the first responders on site. The worst of the fire is now under control, although the responders still do not have access to the main part of the market because of the fire, which is still burning. So far, responders have accessed a small area of the market’s Zone 4, but have had to pull back for safety reasons.
At least one body has been spotted, but could not be retrieved – the first responders onsite have stated that there are certainly more bodies in the rubble. So far, 38 people who were rescued received First Aid assistance from Burundi RCS volunteers among them, 7 were evacuated by ambulance to hospital due to severe injuries they suffered. The people who were assisted had suffered injuries and burns. Many who lost their livelihood in the fire are dealing with serious emotional problems (some threatening to kill themselves), which the Red Cross volunteers were responding to with psychosocial support.
Coordination has been challenging, which should improve following a meeting that has been called by the Government authorities.
The President of the IFRC who was visiting Burundi in part to attend the RC Net meeting of Presidents and Secretary Generals of the National Societies of the region was able to leave Bujumbura as scheduled this morning.
The President of the Republic of Burundi is planning to visit the affected area tomorrow.
Actions by Burundi RC
Burundi RCS deployed 89 volunteers from across the capital, as well as 1 water truck, 1 ambulance, 7 First Aid kits as well as one additional water truck provided by the ICRC. Burundi RCS set up a First Aid post, which was equipped with 1 tent and 5 beds. The Red Cross water trucks were playing a critical role of supplying the Protection Civile’s fire trucks with water, so that the fire trucks did not have to leave the scene for re-supply: this approach allowed the water trucks to be more effective in focussing on battling the fire.
Volunteers have been providing First Aid assistance, psychosocial support as well as facilitating evacuations to hospitals. Volunteers are also assisting the authorities in crowd control
As the night approaches in Bujumbura, Burundi RC teams are preparing to suspend the search and rescue operations for the night – the area will be cordoned while they plan for tomorrow’s activities.
Activities that are scheduled for tomorrow include: recovery and identification of the dead bodies, notification of next of kin, provision of care as well as psychosocial support to the families and friends of the affected, continued psychosocial support to the injured. When possible, the process of cleaning up the debris will start.
Actions by others
Protection Civile has been coordinating the search and rescue operations, as well as manning 4 water trucks that were focussing on fighting the fire with water supplied by 2 Red Cross water trucks as well as by one truck from a local construction company.
MSF has provided some First Aid kits as well as supported the operation with the assistance of nurses and an ambulance for evacuation of serious cases to hospital.
The government of Rwanda dispatched a helicopter to the area, to help in the fight agains the fire.
Local authorities have designated 4 hospitals in and near the capital, which are to treat the injured.
A coordination meeting is scheduled for tomorrow and Burundi RCS is planning to attend.