Hargeisa fire: Inferno devastates market in Somaliland's capital

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WATCH: Fire engulfs a market in Hargeisa the capital city of Somaliland

Residents of the capital of Somaliland, Hargeisa, have woken to scenes of devastation after fire tore through the main market overnight.

The blaze destroyed hundreds of businesses in the densely crowded market area as firefighters struggled to gain access to the flames.

But it appears that nobody was killed though 28 people were injured.

The blaze is a setback for the city of 1.2 million people, capital of the unrecognised Republic of Somaliland.

Somaliland, which broke away from Somalia just over 30 years ago, has escaped much of the chaos and violence that plague its neighbour.

The fire started around 20:00 (17:00 GMT) on Friday and was not brought under control until Saturday morning, Efe news agency reports. The cause was not immediately known.

"The town has never witnessed such a massive calamity," the city's mayor Abdikarim Ahmed Moge told reporters.

"This place was the economic centre of Hargeisa and even though the firefighters did their best to contain the fire, the market is destroyed."

The market - the biggest open-air market in the city - was a hub of activity with hundreds of small businesses.

Somaliland has a high rate of unemployment and the market was a lifeline for many poor families who depended on it to make a living. The fire happened just a few hours after the month of Ramadan began, when food business traditionally booms.

Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi said the fire had destroyed goods worth millions of dollars.

Responding to news of the disaster in the former British protectorate, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted he was "saddened to see... such destruction in the open market that is the economic heart of the city".

"Your city will rise again and the UK will do what we can to support Somaliland's rebuilding effort," he added.

Market trader Bashi Ali told AFP news agency he had possessed several businesses in the market and they had all been burnt to ash. "All we can learn from this disaster is to plan the market well," he said.

Image source, Fahad Karie
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Dramatic photos of the aftermath of the blaze were posted by journalist Fahad Karie
Image source, Fahad Karie
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The market used to be home to about 2,000 shops and stalls
Image source, Fahad Karie
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Officials said it started on Friday but was largely brought under control by dawn on Saturday