The National Disaster Management Centre is providing temporary shelter to some 72 individuals displaced by a massive fire that broke out Monday evening at the Coastline Hardware store in Malé.
Deputy Defence Minister Fathmath Thasneem, in charge of the NDMC, told The Maldives Independent that “72 individuals are now in temporary accommodations paid for by the state,” including families who lost their homes in the fire as well as individuals unable to return to their homes due to ongoing cleaning work and residents of the neighbourhood who were affected by smoke.
“We will provide them with all basic necessities including, food, water, shelter, clothing and other sanitary facilities,” Thasneem added.
Arrangements were reportedly made to provide temporary accommodation for the families at guesthouses in Malé last night.
Major Adnan Mohamed, spokesman of the Maldives National Defence Force, said soldiers are working round the clock to clear debris and clean the site.
He expressed gratitude to members of the public for the “cooperation and help provided in controlling yesterday’s fire.” Civilians worked together with policemen and firefighters to carry off parked vehicles and evacuate nearby buildings.
The MNDF’s fire and rescue service had faced criticism on social media for failing to control the fire before the store completely burned down and spread to a next-door shop and adjacent homes. The flames also leapt to a building on the opposite road.
Several blocks in the radius were engulfed in thick black smoke, which could be smelled throughout the city.
Defence Minister Adam Shareef Umar told the state broadcaster that three other buildings were damaged in the fire.
The commander of the FRS told Sun Online that Malé’s emergency water hydrant system did not function and hindered the firefighting effort.
“We had to bring the water from far away. We cannot get water at high pressure from the hydrant systems. We were unable to get water from any of the hydrant systems in the area,” Colonel Abdulla Zuhury said.
The FRS’ priority was containing the fire and preventing it from spreading to adjacent apartment buildings, he added.
The fire was brought under control after nearly four hours with a foam fire engine from the state-owned Maldives Airports Company Ltd transported from Hulhulé to Malé.
The cause of the fire has yet to be determined. According to the police, no injuries were reported. But several people were reportedly treated for smoke inhalation.
The owner of the Coastline store told local media that the shop was insured. The extent of the damages have not been assessed yet. It was stocked with hardware goods and construction material, he said.
Coastline’s administrative department, warehouse, and staff quarters were also burned down in the fire.
The authorities are meanwhile yet to conclude an investigation into a massive fire at a Lily Store warehouse in March last year. A number of families were forced out of their homes.
Several fire incidents in the capital since then have caused millions in damages.
Yesterday’s fire sparked debate on social media about congestion in the densely populated capital, the absence of a legally binding building safety code and the readiness of the authorities to handle large-scale disasters.
Malé, an island of two square miles, is home to more than 150,000 residents or 38 percent of the Maldivian population.
A well deserved thanks to MACL ARFF team for the wonderful job in putting down the fire at Coastline Hardware shop pic.twitter.com/8zZdU1Zdv9
— MACL (@MACLmedia) April 19, 2016
— Gahaa (@AhmedSaeedGahaa) April 18, 2016
Almost 2.5 billion every year, Maldives could have well equipped fire rescue, well trained paramedics and much more efficient Coastguard.
— Marzooq (Mare’) (@AhmedMarzooq) April 18, 2016
Happy they work hard. But Felt very sad. To c this. No mask. No proper gear. They look wasted n exosted. pic.twitter.com/pkOXAyDw70
— Ali Shamin (@ali_shamin) April 19, 2016
A chemical store with no fire safety, at the heart of Male…only 60 fire fighters and only 20 fire fighters gear in MNDF..interesting facts
— Thabbe® (@Thabbe23) April 19, 2016
When a regime decides, as a matter of national policy, to cram even more people into this slum, they’re toying with people’s lives.#fact
— Yameen Rasheed (@yaamyn) April 18, 2016
— Mushfique Mohamed (@mushfique_) April 19, 2016