After a fire destroyed his clothing shop, Elias Mirza lost everything including Tk 71,000 he had kept in the cashbox of the store. Suddenly his preparations for celebration turned into a battle for survival and recovery from a shock.
With Eid around the corner and a five-member family to care for, the trader has taken an initiative, like many others, to get his business going. He borrowed Tk 7,000 at a high interest rate and bought some garments from local Basabari Market and started a makeshift shop on the road where the market, housing his store, stood.
The fire ripped through Ganginarpar Hawkers Market in Mymensingh town on Thursday, burning down 150 shops including Elias's Reaz Garments. Most of them would sell clothes and footwear. The fire is presumed to have started from an electric short-circuit.
“I lost garment products worth around Tk 16 lakh in the fire,” said Elias, while sitting on a stool behind his roadside shop and waiting for customers to show up. “There was Tk 71,000 in the cashbox of my shop, which was also burnt,” he said.
Another trader, Syed Ahmed Raju, the owner of Raju Garments, said he lost garment products worth around Tk 17 lakh and Tk 3.5 lakh in cash. “If the cash could be saved, it would be a straw for my survival right now,” he added.
Like the two, many other traders have also opened their business on the adjacent street on Monday, hoping for a quick recovery. “It is a twist of fate that the fire has suddenly turned us into street vendors,” said Elias.
The affected traders claimed that the extent of damage will be Tk 50 crore.
Apart from finding a means for survival, the traders have also started rebuilding the one-storey market. “Many of us have to borrow money from relatives to contribute to the rebuilding of the burnt market,” said Elias.
Established in 1974, the market used to cater to the middle and low-income group people. After the fire, the clients seemed to have been affected too.
Titu Mia, who also set up a roadside clothing shop as a means of recovery, said the sale is low because people are avoiding this road after the fire.
Alongside the traders, the market employees were also affected badly. More than 300 people used to work there, according to traders. It is another cause of worries for the shop owners. “This is a bad time. Our employees have to be paid while many of us are passing days half-fed,” said Raju.
The traders, however, are trying to bounce back to business as soon as possible. During a visit on Thursday noon, this correspondent found shop owners trying to attract buyers and keep their business afloat ahead of Eid.
Traders are not sure whether the market could be restarted before Eid, and they are worried about receiving the support promised by the authorities.
The municipality authorities are supposed to supply corrugated iron sheets (known as tin sheets) and iron angles to help them rebuild the shops as soon as possible, said Abdul Motaleb Haque, president of Ganginarpar Hawkers Market Samity.
In addition, the local administration has pledged Tk 13.5 lakh for the affected traders but they are yet to receive the money, he said, adding that the officials assured them of providing the tin sheets and the money once the structure is complete.