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Preliminary cause of 5400 sq meter fire at Almaty flear market unveiled 20 сентября 2013, 12:48

Flea market traders were trying to extinguish the fire by themselves first. There were fire extinguishers at the market.
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Beginning of the fire. ©Roza Yesenkulova Beginning of the fire. ©Roza Yesenkulova
The Emergency Situations Department of Almaty has given preliminary conclusions on the causes of the massive fire at Almaty flea market, Tengrinews reports citing the investigators working on the case. "We are pursuing the version of welding works being the cause of the fire. The welding was done in one of the containers in Olzha section of the market. We are considering other versions as well, but be cannot name them yet for legal reasons. Deliberate act of arson is also one of the versions being considered, it has not been excluded yet," the inquiries head of the Almaty Emergency Situations Department Nariman Yerzhanov told the journalists. "We have scheduled a fire investigation and brought over experts from Karaganda-based fire testing laboratory to make the investigation more impartial, they will publicize their conclusions in the nearest days," Yerzhanov continued. According to the official, the flea market traders were trying to extinguish the fire by themselves first. There were fire extinguishers at the market. "It looks like that they did not want to report the first at first and the firefighters got the message late. The people thought they could handle it on their own. So the fire had enough time to spread," he said. According to the city administration the large flea market in the outskirts of Almaty has been operating illegally since 2012. Last year an Almaty court issued a ruling terminating the operations of the markets. Insufficient fire safety was one of the core reasons behind the ruling. After the fire Kazakhstan Minister of Emergency Situations Vladimir Bozhko promised to deal with the owned of the illegally functioning flea market who ignored the court ruling and punish them for violation of the fire safety rules. "They (owners of the markets) failed to ensure fire safety. The markets are overcrowded, so it took a long time to extinguish the fire. Access of fire engines to the site was impossible and no water was available", he is qouted buy Interfax Kazakhstan as saying at the sidelines of the Joint Scientific-and-Technical Council of Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus in Astana on September 18. "We will be dealing with the owners of the markets very strictly," he said. The fire started at 1:33 p.m. on September 13 in Olzha section of the largest flea market of Almaty. Later the fire spilled into Ayan section and partially into Keremet and Alatau sections. The fire was taken under control and stopped from spreading at 7:59 p.m. the same day and completely extinguished only in the morning of the following day at 6:38 a.m. A total of 1518 firefighters, 142 fire engines and 2 helicopters were involved in the massive firefighting operation. The fire at the area of 5400 sq meters damaged over 300 boutiques. None of the goods sold at the flea market have been insured. By Roza Yesenkulova

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