3 Mar 2010
Text, images & video
The scene I saw in Tiko is reminiscent of occurrences I have seen in previous market fire disasters in Nigeria and Cameroon. According to eyewitness accounts, the fire started shortly after the market closed on Tuesday 2nd March in the evening.
For the moment, the official cause of the fire is unknown but it is alleged that the fire started from one of the shops and spread rapidly to the others.
The unfortunate thing about this incident is that most traders lost everything (goods and cash) because the fire started when most had returned home and even some that were alerted could not readily get in as soldiers posted to secure the market could not easily differentiate traders from potential looters. The security forces apparently believed that the flames could be extinguished and a section of the market saved hence they certainly acted in good faith to prevent looting but their apparent good intentions to restrict entry into the burning market are being criticized by a section of the population.
It should be recalled that recently, armed robbery has been on the rise in Tiko and its neighborhood. Due to the frequent attacks on residential houses by men of the underworld, many traders found it more secure to leave their cash in the market. One of the traders I spoke to this morning said that many of his colleagues have lost physical cash to the equivalent tune of tens of thousands of U.S dollars.
The Tiko market is the nerve centre of the town’s economy and its destruction is a disaster of unimaginable proportion to this small coastal town. The town’s residents are gripped by the atmosphere of mourning that has been imposed on them by this fire accident. Many victims were led away in tears. Tiko market is the second largest market in the South West Region of Cameroon and shop owners in the market are mostly Nigerians and Cameroonians.
See images of sections of the market at this link
And watch video at this link
Njei Moses Timah