x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Repairs begin after Al Ain market blaze

Twelve days after a fire destroyed 16 stores in the Old Al Ain Central Market, merchants are hard at work trying to reopen their businesses for Eid.

Anwar Hadir, right, is trying to gather enough money to reopen his barber shop.
Anwar Hadir, right, is trying to gather enough money to reopen his barber shop.

AL AIN // Twelve days after a fire destroyed 16 stores in the Old Al Ain Central Market, some merchants are hard at work trying to reopen their businesses for Eid. Workmen began removing debris over the weekend and repainting in the Afghan section of the market in time for the holiday - one of the busiest periods of the year.

But for those without insurance, the road to recovery will likely be a long and arduous one. The blaze swept through the souk, which is in one of the busiest areas of the city, in the early morning hours. The shops were closed and there were no injuries. This week just five of the stores affected showed signs of being rebuilt. One of them, Al Arabi Barbershop, will cost Dh40,000 to repair. The shop's owner, Anwar Hadir, a 31-year-old Pakistani, received the call that his shop was in flames at 4am last Friday. He did not have insurance.

"I couldn't believe it," he said. "I thought there was some kind of mistake or this was a bad joke, but when I got to the shop I saw that it was completely on fire. I saved Dh90,000 over the past eight years to be able to open up this shop a year ago. It was everything I had. Now it's all gone." The loss of his business could not have come at a worse time. "My parents' home was destroyed in the Pakistan flood," he said. "I spoke to them and told them not to worry and promised that I would work longer hours to be able to send them money home to rebuild the house they lived in, the one I grew up in. Then two weeks after the flood, my shop burned to the ground."

Since the fire Mr Hadir has been borrowing money from friends and "anyone who is willing to lend me some". "But I have to pay them all back. I have no choice but to borrow and open. My family needs help," he said. Mr Hadir had a little money saved and with that he began repairing his shop over the weekend. He removed all the debris so that contractors hired by the Al Ain Municipality, which owns the building, could come in and paint. On Monday, he was putting up new wallpaper, rushing to open with the basic necessities to operate.

"My goal is to open by Eid, because that will be a busy time," he said. "My shop won't be 100 per cent ready by then, but at least there will be an income for me to be able to continue fixing up the store a little at a time and help my family." At Red Rose Textiles, around the corner from Al Arabi Barbershop, Kishore Vangani, 55, from India, was waiting for his insurance adjuster to arrive. "I am very lucky that I escaped any serious damage," Mr Vangani, who owns two other textiles shops in Al Ain, said. "The firemen broke the doors and windows and sprayed water inside my store to keep it from being completely destroyed. The flames were so close to my store that my sign caught fire and some textile rolls were singed and suffered water damage."

While Mr Hadir worked to repair his shop and Mr Vangani tended to customers yesterday, workers were painting stores that had been cleared of debris by owners eager to reopen as soon as possible. Other businesses destroyed in the fire sat vacant. Al Ain Civil Defence said that an electrical fault was the cause of the fire that erupted in one store and quickly spread to the 15 others. ealghalib@thenational.ae