Haiti merchants fear for livelihood after market blaze

PORT-AU-PRINCE: Fire ravaged a historic market in the Haitian capital early Tuesday, leaving burned-out merchants fearing for their livelihoods in the impoverished nation.

Citizens joined firefighters still working around midday to extinguish the blaze that destroyed one of two halls at the 19th century Iron Market.

Dozens of vendors lost their inventories in the blaze, which left them gathered in the market courtyard pondering an uncertain future.

"Without help to restart my business I am going to die on my feet because I never had anything else and, at my age, there's nothing else I can do," said Jacqueline Innocent, 75, who worked in the market her whole life.

Innocent said she lost 10 pots of djondjon, a type of Haitian mushroom, worth about US$100, (RM400).

"All of it burned," she said.

With no insurance and, for most of the vendors, no bank account, the fire means the loss of their meagre fortunes in a country where only a quarter of the people have access to "improved" latrines to avoid contamination and more than half of rural residents lack access to potable water.

A weeping Marie-Yousselande Remy, 52, said that the small profit she made at the market allowed her to send her eldest son to university in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

"What am I going to tell him now ? To stop his studies and come back here to end up like me without a job?"

Residents said the fire began in a garbage bag.

The market was previously damaged by fire in 2008 and then destroyed in Haiti's 2010 earthquake before being rebuilt under supervision of the Haitian agency in charge of protecting historic buildings. — AFP