A fire broke out in a warehouse in Malé last night in the second fire incident in the capital in less than a week.
The fire at the United Food Supplies warehouse in the Maafanu ward was reported to the Maldives National Defence Force’s (MDNF) fire and rescue services around 8:20pm and was swiftly contained around 8:40pm.
MDNF spokesperson Major Adnan Ahmed told Minivan News that the fire was caused by an ignition in the panel board of a storage container.
The warehouse on Hadhuvaree Hingun mainly stores vegetables, frozen goods and other food items, he said.
Local media reported that staff brought out several boxes from the warehouse to protect the food items after heavy smoke engulfed the area when the fire was extinguished.
The items in storage were not damaged in the fire.
Last night’s incident occurred three days after a fire broke out at the Kaaminee Shopping Centre in the city’s main thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu on Thursday, June 18.
The police and MNDF evacuated nearby shops and apartments, but the fire was also contained in a short period.
A police officer involved in the evacuating the staff was injured and taken to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital for treatment.
A police media official said both cases were under investigation, but suggested that last night’s fire was most likely caused by faulty equipment.
“Two apartments nearby the fire at Kaaminee center were damaged by the fire, other than that there are not much damages apart from the shopping centre,” he said.
A number of families have been forced out of their homes after a massive fire broke out in a warehouse in Malé on Thursday night (March 19), sending plumes of flame and smoke 60 feet into the air.
The two-storey Lily Store warehouse in Maafanu ward was completely destroyed, causing damages worth an estimated MVR30 million (US$1.9 million), according to Lily Store owner Ahmed Naseer.
Homes in the area were evacuated around 11:15pm as the flames leapt from Maafanu Oak Villa to adjacent buildings in the narrow alley. Residents first heard loud cracking noises like gunfire or explosions before the flames were visible.
Deodorant bottles, gas cylinders, one lorry, and three pickups were inside the warehouse.
All the windows of the multi-storey building opposite the warehouse were shattered and deodorant bottles were later found inside its apartments.
According to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) fire and rescue service, the fire was contained around 12:00am and completely extinguished about two hours later with members of the public working alongside police officers and firemen.
Fire lorries were unable to use water cannons for nearly 30 minutes with the narrow streets surrounding the warehouse packed with panic-stricken and fleeing residents.
Residents from the neighbourhood told Minivan News that many people emerged from their homes in night dresses, and some were carrying crying toddlers.
On Saturday morning, smoke was still spewing out of the burnt-down warehouse.
The fire had spread to the third floor of an adjacent building as well as a construction site whilst the roof of a nearby house had collapsed.
The apartment now lies in ruins and many houses were looted after residents fled.
Malé City Councilor Shamau Shareef said a family of ten was sheltering at Malé’s Social Centre with the neighbourhood home to about 500 people still engulfed in smoke.
Shamau said about four families were forced out of their homes with their buildings uninhabitable, walls still scalding hot and belongings burnt.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party councillor called on MNDF and police to expedite cleaning up the area as the “toxic fumes are not safe to breathe.” He also urged the government to provide temporary shelter to the four affected families.
However, Shamau commended the MNDF and police both for their prompt response and safely evacuating the neighbourhood.
Apart from an elderly man reportedly treated at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital for smoke inhalation, no one was harmed in the fire.
A middle-aged woman seeking refuge at the social centre told Minivan News that the explosions she heard “sounded like gunfire.”
“We were all sleeping when the fire broke out. I was woken up by very loud explosions. Soon someone started knocking on the door loudly and asked us to evacuate,” she recalled.
“My child still is only eating now, yesterday he barely ate anything and had trouble sleeping,” she said, pointing to her 13-year-old son having biscuits and tea at the social centre’s small cafeteria.
She expressed gratitude to the Disaster Management Centre for arranging temporary shelter and providing food and other essentials.
“I understand it is a difficult time for everyone. We do not have all the luxuries we had at home. But I am happy with what they have done for us,” she said.
A resident of the neighbourhood, Ali Rasheed, 52, said his family has been sleeping and eating at friend’s places as living in their home was “unbearable” because of the smoke.
“I believe the government should be held accountable for this. The fire trucks were not able to provide water until much later,” he said.
Lily Store owner Naseer told local media that nothing was salvaged from the warehouse, which he said was stored with newly imported goods ten days ago. However, the warehouse was insured, Naseer said.
Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed visited the damaged homes this morning.
A police media official confirmed today that a separate fire occurred at Ekuveni around 12:00am on Thursday night, less than an hour after the warehouse fire broke out.
Police began patrolling the city whilst MNDF officers were deployed to petrol sheds and other strategic locations.
A security guard at the sports complex told Minivan News that he saw two “youngsters on a motorcycle” hurl what appeared to be petrol bombs into the premises. However, the fires were quickly extinguished.
“I immediately called the police and started working on extinguishing the fire,” he said.
The second fire fueled speculation of coordinated attacks, and police have not ruled out arson in the warehouse fire, saying all lines of inquiry were open in the ongoing investigation.
“We are working hard to identify those involved in the dangerous fire in Malé on Thursday night, and will take strict action against them,” Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed wrote on Facebook today.
Malé Water and Sewerages Company (MWSC) has cut off all water supplies in the capital Malé after underground cables connecting the switch room and generator caught fire.
Local media reported MWSC – the sole provider of clean desalinated water in the capital – as saying that the water services had to be cut off in order to control the damage and that the service was employing all available means to restart the service within the next few hours.
The company has announced that water will be made available temporarily between 8pm – 9pm this evening, and again between 8am and 9pm tomorrow.
Minister of Defence Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim has declared the situation a disaster, setting up a task force and distributing free water via local shops. Local media has begun to report long queues forming outside shops to buy water as well as the price being increased in certain stores.
Police have confirmed one shopkeeper has been attacked, with Vaguthu reporting the assault as resulting from a failure to sell customers the desired amount of water.
Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) spokesperson Major Hussain Ali told Minivan News that the fire was reported to the fire and rescue department at around 1.40pm.
“MNDF officers were on the scene shortly and started working on controlling the fire. The fire was completely extinguished at around 3.25pm,” said Major Hussain.
An MNDF press statement detailing the incident read that the firemen on scene removed some of the ducts in order determine the source of the fire and that a separate team were then called to clear the thick smoke observed in the area.
Police confirmed that they are now investigating the cause of the fire.
MWSC does not rely on electricity generated by State Electric Company but instead operates its own generators to provide electricity for the desalination plant.
Most households in the capital rely on MWSC for their daily water needs, with well water – the traditional method of acquiring water – having become unhygienic due to poor drainage and leakage of contaminants into groundwater.
A crane working on the construction of Machangoalhi Cocoage in Male collapsed yesterday evening.
The accident happened yesterday evening around 5:08 pm, when the crane fell onto neighbouring the neighbouring building, Machangoalhi Faransaage.
With the assistance of two more cranes, the collapsed crane was lifted at around 12:28 am. MNDF fire and rescue worked with the police and several construction companies to carry out the salvage operation.
Faransaage sustained some damage and the residents have now been moved into a guesthouse.