A fire broke out at the textile, clothing, and second-hand market of Narantuul Trade Center on March 3, at approximately 2:00 a.m. in the morning. The cost of damages has not been assessed yet.
National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) firefighters extinguished the fire at approximately 7:00 a.m., and an hour later, the police took over the site and refused to let anyone enter the fire-damaged area.
“We received a report about a fire at Narantuul Trade Center at 3:39 a.m., and our fire trucks arrived at the site at 3:40 a.m. The textile market is 5,700 square meters in area and the fire spread to over 2,500 square meters. A total of 102 firefighters from nine rescue teams worked at the site.
“Currently, the police and NEMA are working together at the site. The fire spread very quickly. A total of 75 police officers are now guarding the site,” said S.Zaluukhuu, chief of the Fire Fighting Department of NEMA.
Vendors said that the owner of Narantuul, Sh.Saikhansambuu, and the market’s management did not notify them of the fire, but that they found out about it from a post on Facebook and shared the information with other vendors.
“Some are saying that the fire broke out from a cigarette. It’s true that some of the traders play cards at night, but who would be playing cards that late in this cold weather? They only play until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. When the food market burned, the police said that Chinese gas tanks caused the fire. But in this case, there’s nothing explosive in the textile market. Lights are attached to the ceiling and are lit all night. It’s strange how the fire was blazing up. The firemen came and finished extinguishing the fire at around 7:00 a.m. in the morning,” one Narantuul vendor said.
“About six to seven guards work at Narantuul. There are cameras surrounding the market, but the guards didn’t know about the fire. Workers at the gas station south of Narantuul claimed the fire started at around 2:00 a.m.,” said one trader who did not want to be named.
“I have been selling textiles at Narantuul for 15 years. I had about 15 to 16 million MNT worth of products. Sh.Saikhansambuu is playing with the lives of poor people. Why does fire always break out before dawn?” asked vendor B.Dorjkhand.
“He was asking us to buy a booth for 80 million MNT in the new market, which was built after the previous one burnt down. He was asking textile traders to move into the new market, and yet there was no discount.
“Do you know how many lives depend on one vendor at Narantuul? Now, they will take down the metal carcass. How many years will it take for them to identify the reason for the fire and provide reimbursement? What happens to the traders’ lives now? We’re put in a tough situation,” B.Dorjkhand added.
The Head of the Public Relations Office of the General Police Department, B.Baatarkhuu, said that detectives are working to determine the cost of damages from the fire.
“We don’t want to bother vendors. Also, some media outlets are reporting that Narantuul will not open for three days. The decision has not been finalized. We will discuss it with the NEMA and the Ulaanbaatar Mayor’s Office to maintain normal operations of the markets that haven’t been affected by the fire,” said B.Baatarkhuu.
Sh.Saikhansambuu said on Twitter that he knew who set the fire. “If you want to mess with me, face me directly. Stop messing with people who are working and trying to live. They have families and children behind them,” one of his tweets read.
Later, he tweeted, “Narantuul is not my market. It’s a place boiling with labor that carries many people’s lives. I know who is burning the market.”
Chief S.Zaluukhuu said that the NEMA recently issued Narantuul Trade LLC a 250,000 MNT fine on February 26, during fire safety risk inspections, as the market was not upholding fire protection regulations. According to S.Zaluukhuu, Narantuul administrators were working to improve fire protection and prevention as guided by the NEMA before Thursday’s fire broke out.
A fire broke out at the food market at Narantuul Trade Center in August 2013, killing one woman. An investigation revealed that the fire was caused by faulty electrical wiring at the market.