A 49-year-old woman died and more than 400 people were forced out of their homes on Friday night after a fire broke out in a warehouse stored with chemicals in a residential area of Malé.
Aishath Shauna was reported missing by her family after she called for help as houses were being evacuated around 7:30pm. Her body was found burned beyond recognition in a building opposite the warehouse after the fire was brought under control four hours later.
Witnesses heard loud explosions from the warehouse before flames spread to other buildings and ripped through apartments on the narrow road in Henveiru ward. A three-storey structure made of metal sheets collapsed. Firefighters battled for hours as the area was engulfed in thick smoke and massive plumes rose high above the island.
The military’s fire and rescue service saved five people trapped in the house opposite the warehouse, Maldives National Defence Force Colonel Abdulla Ibrahim told the press in a briefing after midnight. Six homes and four warehouses were affected, said the fire and rescue services commander.
More than 50 people were rushed to the nearby ADK hospital. One person was admitted and nine were treated for smoke inhalation. Fifteen people were later treated at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.
The National Disaster Management Authority set up a relief centre for displaced families at the Kalaafanu School. Arrangements were later made to transfer people from the temporary shelter to guesthouses.
Early on Friday night, the NDMA ran out of storage after overwhelming support from the public to a call for donations. Further appeals for food and clothing would be made as needed, the authority said.
Power was temporarily disconnected for the location in Henveiru as firefighters continued working into the early hours of Saturday. Their efforts were aided by rain as a light drizzle earlier in the night turned into a heavy downpour. The military’s 12 firetrucks were joined by a vehicle deployed from the international airport.