Blaze destroys over 15 coldrooms at Mkondeni fruit and vegetable market

2012-09-11 00:00

Damage of over R15 million was caused to the Mkondeni municipal fruit and vegetable market yesterday as a fire broke out at the back of the building destroying more than 15 cold rooms.

A man who was at the market on business, who asked not to be named, told The Witness he noticed first the fire when he arrived at the section where some of goods were

kept.

“I used two fire extinguishers to fight the fire but realised I was not winning, so I left. The fire fighters managed to get here on time. It could have been worse if they had not come,” said the man.

He added that they suspect a faulty electricity cord as the cause of the blaze.

Cold rooms full of bananas, grapefruit and vegetables were destroyed by the fire, the intensity of which caused gas cylinders to explode in the blaze. The municipal Infrastructure Services Department has estimated the damage at about R15 million and the value of lost produce at R500 000, said the municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma.

Other parts of the market were not affected and escaped damage.

When The Witness visited the market it was business as usual, although the smoke and the smell of burning pervaded the market.

Customers discussed the fire, with regular buyers saying they were not surprised by the blaze as the market is in a state of neglect.

They said a part of the roof from one section of the market was half blown away more than a year ago in a storm and it is still to be fixed.

They said each time they go to the market they fear the roof will fall on their vehicles.

Simon Poole, an agent, said they noticed black smoke coming out of one end of the market and everyone was asked to go out.

Ismail Dhoda, chairman of the Msunduzi Municipal Market Buyers Association said the fire meant that farmers will be limiting the amount of produce they bring to the market because of limited storage space. “Buyers, like me, will have to travel to the Durban and Johannesburg markets, for stock. This was will be no problem as long as the Msunduzi Municipality moves fast to get the assessors in and sort out the insurance so that the cold rooms can be rebuilt.” He said the buyers will to some extent cushion the costs. However, if the municipality does not move fast and drags its feet then there will be long term financial repercussions. He urged the municipality not to waste time and to get going on sorting out the damage caused by the fire.

Rodney Trenam, a fire specialist, who is investigating the cause of the fire, said it is still early to comment on the incident.

Zuma said at about 5am, the fire started at the back of the cold rooms.

The Msunduzi fire department was called in and the fire was completely put out at about 7am.

“About 15 cold rooms were completely destroyed, together with the produce. Police were also called in and investigations as to the cause of the fire have commenced,” said Zuma.

He added that insurance is also conducting its own assessment.

“The engineers are also assessing if the structure is safe after the fire. However, business is continuing in the unaffected parts of the market. Further information will be disclosed after the fire department has concluded its investigation.”

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