Tajikistan: Rapid Reaction to Bazaar Fire Enhances Mayor’s Rep
A raging fire consumed the largest market in Tajikistan’s capital this week, destroying dozens of stores and leaving around 200 people without a livelihood.
The blazed last into the morning on July 3 and spread over an area of 480 square meters. The police say the fire was likely caused by a short circuit.
After the fire, a group of traders decided to make a direct personal appeal to the mayor of Dushanbe, Rustam Emomali, who is also the eldest son of the president. To everybody’s surprise, the traders were ushered into a meeting with Emomali.
As Khovar state news agency reported, Emomali gave instructions for the affected traders to be exempted from rent and other fees for a two-year period. The mayor also ordered that Korvon bazaar be rebuilt and installed with modern fire detection equipment.
With this rapid reaction, Emomali has managed to transform a potential public relations disaster into a win, judging by the overwhelmingly positive reaction on social media.
Tajik bazaars are notoriously susceptible to going up in flames. Korvon alone has caught fire on seven occasions since 2002. But not once has anybody been found responsible for the incidents and official investigations have routinely been closed inconclusively for lack of evidence.
The largest fire ever to hit Korvon took place in September 2012. Law enforcement agencies claimed at the time that the incident was the result of arson. Video footage showed a woman pouring gasoline on the premises and then lighting a match, but the culprit was never found.
In rare scenes for Dushanbe, the following day, angry traders began mustering at the scene and demanding that the director of the bazaar come out to meet them. When the director failed to show up, the crowd started marching toward the city hall, prompting then Mayor Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev to intercept them to calm them down.
As Sputnik-Tajikistan has reported, in acknowledgement of the fire hazard, bazaar managers decided to create a dedicated fire department for Korvon. The fire station was equipped with two trucks and an automatic water supply system was installed to help respond to any outbreaks. In addition, more than 300 close-circuit cameras were put in place and a staff of 100 safety workers monitored the bazaar over four shifts.
And even that, remarkably, was not enough.