Every disaster, be it natural or man-made, has two sides, a cause and consequences. People must consider both, before disasters do arise and occur; especially those that are objectively painful and pernicious.

I am talking about the national disaster that evolved from the fire that reduced Shiraaqle (Waheen) market in Hargeisa to ashes on April 2nd, 2022.

Before going into the details of the two sides of the disaster triggered by the fire that broke out in Shiraaqle market, let me start by sharing with you the universal definition of a natural disaster.

According to UN classification for destructive events, a disaster is defined as “the consequences of events caused by natural or man-made hazards that overwhelm local response capacity and seriously affect the social and economic development of a region.”

The consequences of the fire that pulverized Shiraaqle Market ultimately overwhelmed Somaliland’s demostic response capacity, in every way we see it, and is therefore considered as a disaster, comparing to UN’s universal definition for natural disasters.

The start of the fire

The fire was in the middle of nowhere when sirens of self-propelled fire trucks wailed, rushing into where the fire started. Two to three shops including small stalls were burning at that moment, but the flames of the fire were moving swiftly toward other adjacing shops and stalls.

Flames were visible from the outside when firefighters arrived at Shiraaqle (Waheen) market, and immediately went into an aggressive attack on the fire. But frankly speaking, the firemen’s struggle to control the dramatic spread of the fire was weakened by the limited access to the central part of the market. That was the most hindering problem the firemen and volunteers faced.

The dramatic spread of the fire

As eye witnesses said, it only took 20 seconds for a small flame to turn into a full-blown life-threatening fire. The fire grew higher and hotter, spreading from one place to another. What actually increased the dramatic spread of the fire the cumbustible goods avaialabe at the market, such as clothes, plastic shoes, hair styling products, soaps, creams, lotions, face masks, baby powder, incense, colours for the skin, eyes and face, wallpaper, hanging plastic shades and curtains, which probably ignited from the blown flames.

Fire suppression

Fire suppression started with the direction of
the fire and fire crews and other suppression resources such as buldozers were delivered to the front of the fire by attacking directly the flanks of the fire to narrow the front of it.

Despite this the fire touched more and more stores, while the firemen and volunteers were trying, to the best of their abilities, to break down the sequence of the spreading blaze in an attempt to stop the flames going quickly from one shop to another, but to no avail.

When trials to put out the
fire turned into despair.

The incident worsened when Hargeisa residents, most of whom came for watching the fire ran from all corners of the city and ushered congestion and confusion. That was the scariest time to see even pilfering, coupled with intensive attempts to steal the burning commodities, intentionally taking place.

It seemed as if stealing and pilfering were better than leaving commodities to burn, for this reason no one cared to distinguish traders from thiieves. Some sources told that stolen goods were caught after the incident.

With the fire moving beyond the shops within the market and other areas beginning to burn, a denser plume of hot air and smoke rose and spread across the market and then the fire engulfed the entire centre, devastating anything in its path.

The two sides of the fire
(Cause and consequences)

First, a cause is why an event happens, or what makes something happen, or what gives an action to rise. A cause is what explains why something happens.

Second, consequences are the effect of what happened, the result of what has occured, or the difference between an old situation and a new one after an incident has occured.

Sometimes there can be more than one cause and effect. This occurs when one cause brings about an effect and then that effect becomes the cause for another effect.

As we know, what is seen is much more interesting to talk than what is not seen. For this reason the consequences of the fire posed a tangible issue that deserves more attention and evaluative analysis than the intangible cause of the fire in the first place.

The consequences of the fire
(‘Shiraaqle Market)

Shiraaqle (Waheen) commercial centre is not now what it was when it has burned, both in
appearance and activity. If looks have a say, Shiraaqle market is presently a big grave, that no force can dig out all that is buried in it, that all of us love so much.

In appearance, Shiraaqle market, the livelihood of Hargeisa city, is now in shambles and looks like a junkyard, where scrap is collected before being recycled or discarded. Moreover, shards of broken glasses, metal and pottery, along with heaps of blackened corrugated alumunium sheets are scattered across the site.

A lifeless village

Shiraaqle market, which once was the most crowded and busiest economic hub in Hargeisa and home of 2500 shops, stalls and kiosks collectively run by thousands of business owners and workers, is now a lifeless village with no vitality or animation,

where many victims, who have suffered huge financial losses (Cash and commodities) as a result of fire break out, come every day as if they are going to gloat over their devastated properties.

The damage and danger of the fire.

Extensive property loss extends to the entire market. Even concrete buildings untouched by flames, high heat has softened window glass, melted plastic, caused paint to blister and charred wood. Most of the building structures
of all shops and stalls in the market were a combination of metal and plastic, so even if they are still standing, chances are they are ruined, with innards melted and destroyed beyond repair.

Although flames were extinguished danger still continues to lurk, and many of the burned or melted plastics and synthetic materials in shops and stalls continue to off-gas toxins.

It is still unsafe for anyone to enter the market, for unseen weaknesses in the structures may still cause collapse when operations to clean and clear the market of the residues of what was burnt will start.

Fires devastate everything in their path.
Waheen fire is no exception, and will be remembered as the deadliest raging fire, the most destructive and costliest fire in the history of Somaliland with losses exceeding $1.5 billion.

Rehabilitation and restoration

The impact of the fire was heavy. After the fire, the need to implement rehabilitation and restoration programme has not been honestly carried out by Somaliland authorities with immediate effect.

The motivation point behind rehabilitation and restoration should be a long-term process that focuses on repairing infrastructure and recreating resource damages caused by the fire.

Lamentably up to this moment we have not seen from Somaliland administration any initiative or interest for forming a panel whose responsibility is to identify post fire threats to human life and safety, estimate property lost, take immediate actions to register the exact number of victims, and make necessary steps to reconstruct Shiraaqle market.

This stabilization work, which may continue for upto a year or more, did not begin right after the fire is out and people want to know why.

The actual cause of the fire.

The cause of the blaze is not yet known. No one was arrested for the ignition of the fire. Somaliland authorities have not talked about what really caused the fire. No branch of Somaliland’s legal institutions has so far troubled itself to take an initiative to inquire and investigate the actual cause of the fire.

A considerable number of critical questions flows from this. These questions include: Why did the fire breake out on Friday evening when most of the shop owners left their own shops? Is it not possible that the fire evolved from human ignition, most probably a sobotage intentionally masterminded by individuals who were working for other hidden entities? Or is it that the fire has born out of electricity sparks that caught cumbustible appliances availabe at the market? Or has it evolved from an accidental ignition from cigarrette lighter or cigarrete butt thrown carelessly by someone?

Upto this moment no one from Somaliland authorities dared to answer above questions. Instead conflict and clashes of ideas over who would design and decorate the devastated market have begun between Somaliland authotities and the opposition parties, a notable stand that proves the fact that Somaliland politicians and public figures are not cause-oriented but cash-oriented.

The worse goes further from that even when some government official argued that Somaliland people have experienced and ecountered with harsh events in the past and, of course, this one, they will endure. Can rhetorics cauterize the wounds of Waheen fire victims?

Inspiring the victims with the slogans of being resilient and regenerative by some ministers doesn’t absolve Somaliland existing administration from the responsibility of handling pernacious issues that need urgent national conversation and convincing explanation in the first place.

What lessons can we learn from our government’s decline to take appropraite measures to investigate the causes of the fire? Is our world evolving without obligations?

While many phenomenal techniques exist for building a modern political system, three specific approaches, which all fall under the endogenous school of thinking, help humans keep political orders remain resilient.

Of these three approaches the most important approach is accountability, without which a nation cannot be a nation. And where there is no accountability, many things that would be real threats to a nation building come into the ways in which a country is run and ruled.

What is and evidently has been a real threat to Somaliland is that we have built a system in which most crucial policies profoundly depend on two approaches: callousness and corruption. And callousness and corruption are associated with one another in such a way that almost no one can understand what these two pillars stand for. This is a prescription for Somaliland problem. We seem to get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of arrogance and illusion is going to blow up in our faces.

The cause of the fire that ignited in Shiraaqle market represents the first prescription for Somaliland’s problems that blew up in peoples’ faces.

Life requires all people to accept certain level of risk. Many daily encounters or activities expose people to the chance that they will lose some things they value. People can take steps to make that loss less, but they cannot eliminate all risks at once.

In other words, humans cannot stop all disasters, but they can equip themselves with know-how; that is, many lives and assets would not have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparation.

So all disasters, like fires, involve risk. But there is one thing one must consider when it comes to Somaliland. What this thing is?

Saddened to see the aftermath of the fire that levelled the most crowded Waheen commercial centre to the ground with the massive loss of public assets and many other miseries, one poses the question: Do Somaliland people arm themselves with the knowledge that can enable them to take measures that are meant to lessen the consequences which result from the disasters that occur?

Almost all Somaliland people, regardless of who one is, just wake up every morning and leave their homes convinced as if they are going to conquer the world, because they only see consolation, but never see consequences – that is, they never imagine that the clouds of sorrow are lowering in their sky, to put the sunshine out for a time, and before noon all will become dark. Somaliland authorities are no exception. And that is a problem all Somalilanders share in common.

As the old gag goes to say, “He who thinks and plans ahead gets the first.” What does this mean?

Thinking ahead is a key to the aspects of goal-achieving plan. When people think ahead, they become proactive and can foresee issues or roadblocks that may come their way and therefore take the actions to avoid the roadblocks.

Who seem to be proactive? People who are accountable for their actions and decisions. What makes authorities accountable? The public positions they hold; the social contract within which all people are ruled, and no one is above it.

When people do not plan and think ahead, they fail to face the challenges until they are forced to. People never seem to respond to issues appropriately and that is why they are always behind the time and the target. The same goes for Somaliland.

Therefore unless Somaliland authorities become proactive practically, think ahead and plan ahead, Somaliland will have little chances in getting ahead.

Thus, all cases considered, it is the lack of thinking and planning ahead by Somaliland public figures that caused Waheen fire. It is Somaliland authorities who designed Waheen market plan. How on earth Waheen market had no roads through which firefighters could enter? Who allowed the population to sit and settle in Waheen market as they wanted to? The authorities of Somaliland local government. Who gave the people the permission to block Waheen roads? Somaliland local authorities. Period.

Conclusion: The problem with Somaliland is that there is no accountable government. If Somaliland government is accountable for its actions and decisions, things would have been different than those that we observe today. Where there is no accountable government, there can be disasters that should not happen if there was enough disasters preparation in advance.

By: Jamafalaag.
Somaliland, Hargeisa.




As per usual the opinions expressed in this articale are those of
the author and do not reflect the opinions of qarannews.com