Fire kills one and damages properties of 300 traders at Narantuul

By B.Khash-Erdene

Last Friday morning, a fire broke out at the Narantuul Trade Center’s grocery section at around 6:10 am according to eyewitnesses. The fire brigade took one corpse out of the burning building, with some reports stating that it was a child’s. It is estimated that properties of more than 300 traders were damaged. After the fire, the authorities found burned cash worth 40,000 USD and 6,000,000 MNT.

When journalists arrived at the scene at 8:40 am, the fire fighters were still working to put the fire out as the grocery section premises were still on fire and emitting smoke. The district police had drawn a perimeter around the area and the roads near the market were partially closed.

According to the traders who had originally gathered at the market to protest the three-day closedown of the market in relation to road construction work, the fire broke out at 6 am from the grocery section’s blue dome buildings after a sound of explosion from inside. The traders said that there were not any major electrical grids and cables inside the premises. They also added the speculation that it might have been done on purpose and were quick to accuse other markets. “This isn’t an ordinary accident, somebody did this on purpose. It’s the work of the Dunjingarav market’s owner, B.Narankhuu, and no one else,” one trader said.

It is still not certain who or what caused the fire.

At around 10:40 am, Head of the Criminal Prevention Division of the Ulaanbaatar Police Department N.Sumya gave a statement to the press. He explained that, at that moment, they were not able to determine the cause as the fire department was still working to stop it. “When the investigation is completed, we will be able to make an official statement about the reason of the fire. For now, personnel from the UB Police Department, Bayanzurkh District Police’s 1st and 2nd Divisions, and Sukhbaatar District police has been brought to work here. Until the investigation is complete, we will focus on maintaining public safety and peace, and protecting the traders’ properties,” he added.

More and more traders were pouring into Narantuul on the news that it was burning to make sure that their merchandise was not damaged, which was causing more traffic congestion. Several arguments broke out among the police and the frustrated traders who were anxious to check on their properties.
Although the press was told that the operations of the rest of the market will continue, the other traders and the Narantuul Market administration did not open other sections.

During the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag gave the instruction to resolve these issues immediately to Ulaanbaatar Mayor E.Bat-Uul. Shortly after this, the capital city’s administration came to the site to scope the damages for themselves.

Although the capital city’s irregular meeting was scheduled to begin at 10 am on Friday, it was delayed due to the fire.

After the Ulaanbaatar administration received reports at the site, a press meeting was held at 11:40 am.

The Ulaanbaatar City General Management, General Emergency Management Authority (GEMA), General Police Deparment, Bayanzurkh District Authority, and Narantuul Administration reported on the situation of the day to Mayor E.Bat-Uul.

According to the authorities, they received reports of a fire at 6:20 am. The first to arrive was the 63rd Division of the Bayanzurkh Fire Squad at 6:30 am, at which time the fire had spread rapidly throughout the whole premises, with the roofs collapsing and the area full of smoke. After 10 minutes of fire fighting at the western entrance, they located the source and a unit was dispatched to it. The GEMA dispatched five fire fighting squads, a total of 125 fire fighters, and two rescue teams who extinguished the fire at 11:30 am.

According to the GEMA, they had just recently conducted fire safety inspections in market centers around the capital. They said that the Narantuul market had no fire prevention or safety procedures at hand except for security cameras. Officials said that because of the absence of fire alarms at the premises, the squads lost a lot of time stopping the fire.

During the fire, one corpse was found. It was small in stature and burned beyond recognition. Fire fighters reported that there were two people inside when the fire began but they managed to escape unharmed.

The fire squad also reported that there wasn’t enough water, so they brought in local well trucks to assist them in the fight.

The Mayor ordered concerned personnel to immediately identify and notify the relatives of the deceased, complete the investigation and inspections, evaluate damages and costs, and swiftly work towards improving traffic congestion in the area. He also instructed the police to ensure public safety and not to spread false rumors or reports.

The Narantuul market did not operate on Saturday, a day after the fire, and the traders said that they will submit their requests to operate on Monday.

According to the Narantuul administration, around 300 traders rented markets inside the premises of the grocery section. But the Narantuul Traders’ Union said that there are at least a thousand traders renting spots inside the area. The renters are all insured in accordance with the contract and the issue will be handled according to what they signed, said officials.

More than a month ago, changes were made to the renters’ contracts stating that if a fire breaks out from the outside, they will be given a compensation of three to six million MNT.

In February, the GEMA conducted a fire safety inspection at Narantuul and concluded that there were a number of fire security issues. They gave a conclusion and recommendation to eliminate the fire risks in April and Narantuul’s management said that they handed in an official document proving that all provisions related to the risks of a potential fire were met in May.

At 2:20 pm, Deputy Prime Minister D.Terbishdagva arrived at the site and talked to the traders. He was informed that the first and second floor expansions were totally destroyed by the fire. He told the traders that after all of the risks have been managed and the location secured, they have to register and they need to report on their belongings which, if undamaged, can be retrieved.

After the Deputy Prime Minister’s departure from the site, the press was allowed inside. The grocery section of the market was covered in ash and debris. The roof had collapsed and the Golomt Bank ATM in the east side had been completely burned. Currently, a team led by Governor of Bayanzurkh District D.Purevdavaa is working to resolve the issues with regard to the trader’ losses, compensation, evaluation of damages, etc.

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