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Raging fire breaks out in capital Male'

Raif Amyl Jalyl
20 September 2019, MVT 20:11
Fire breaks out in Henveiru ward and spread to neighbouring houses from the point of origin in the narrow road.
Raif Amyl Jalyl
20 September 2019, MVT 20:11

A fire broke out on Friday night at a building near Off Road clothing store in Henveiru ward, capital city Male'.

It is currently known to be spreading to neighbouring houses from the point of origin in the narrow road.

Reportedly, authorities from Maldives Police Service and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) are currently actively working to put out the flames.

A video depicting the fire as it escalated. VIDEO: MIHAARU

According to an on-scene reporter from local media Mihaaru, the fire broke out in a warehouse that was storing chemicals. Multiple explosions were heard when the fire broke out, and as it spread.

Police revealed that the fire was first reported late Friday evening at approximately 1725 hours.

Smog from the blaze throughout the neighbouring area made accessibility difficult.

A large amount of civilian volunteers mobilised and were active on scene, barricading the area from pedestrian or vehicular access for safety as authorities proceeded to remove flammable items such as gas canisters from the surrounding houses.

MNDF revealed that the fire initially broke out at 'Fehiaabaadh' house in Henveiru ward, near Maldives National University (MNU) Business School. Authorities have evacuated and entered the premises to extinguish the fire.

Sources report that smoke was visible from above capital Male'.

According to local news Mihaaru, strong winds have stoked the blaze spreading embers and smog to the general area in Sosun Magu, near ADK Hospital.

Several people, including children, are currently receiving medical treatment at ADK Hospital after being affected by the fumes and smoke.

Chemical fumes are identified to be spreading along the surrounding area.

At 20:13 pm, the fire at the point of origin completely burnt out, although it continues in the neighbourhood.

While authorities confirmed ADK Hospital was treating 27 injured in the incident, the hospital continues to treat people brought in for shock and affected by the smoke.

ADK Hospital declared an emergency status, with only emergency cases taken in for consultations.

The fire since spread from the epicentre to houses from the opposite side of the road.

Health and safety organisations such as Health Protection Agency (HPA) and Maldives Red Crescent (MRC) have issued warnings to the public to stay clear of the smoke area and the rain due to chemical contaminants released to the air due to the fire.

Fire and Rescue vehicles from Velana International Airport assembled at the vicinity of the incident to aid in fire extinguishing efforts.

Volunteers aided in moving parked vehicles around the area, to provide ease of entry to the Fire and Rescue vehicles.

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) arranged Kalaafaanu School, Imaduddine School and Majeedhiyya School to become a relief centre for families affected in the fire, and urged families of victims to assemble at Kalaafaanu School.

A large number of young volunteers are taking part in the relief effort. VIDEO: TWITTER

Authorities faced numerous challenges in controlling the unprecedented fire as it broke out in a narrow street.

Since NDMA's announcement, displaced families have sought refuge at the relief centres.

While visiting the Kalaafaanu relief centre, Minister of Gender, Family and Social Services Shidhaatha Shareef confirmed that the incumbent administration has initiated aid efforts to those affected by the fire.

At approximately 2104 hours, an engulfed building in the epicentre collapsed as the fire continued to spread. The 3-storey godown was constructed from metal roofing sheets.

Minister of Defence Ahmed Mariya Didi posted on social media from the scene praising "Huge effort being made by MNDF and Airport Firemen working together".

Local media Mihaaru reported that security forces had rescued stranded individuals from flaming houses at 2111 hours.

Embers caused multiple fires, reaching houses 400 metres away from the chemical warehouse where it initially broke out.

A nearby warehouse also storing chemicals erupted in flames. Explosions were heard on-site.

As a result of rising number of people requiring medical assistance, Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen announced that both state-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in capital Male' and Tree-Top Hospital in reclaimed suburb Hulhumale' have declared emergency status.

Evacuation procedures were ongoing beyond three hours into the incident.

Reportedly, the fire could only begin to be contained upon arrival of Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL)'s Fire and Rescue vehicle.

By its arrival at 2219 hours, two flaming buildings were extinguished.

At 2241 hours, MNDF stated that the fire was controlled from spreading further. However, a single building remained on fire.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih accompanied by First Lady Fazna Ahmed, visited the site. He was briefed by senior officials of MNDF regarding the incident. Prior to his arrival, Vice President Faisal Naseem was present on scene.

President Solih said that his administration would work towards the relocation of dangerous and hazardous chemicals away from residential areas. An emergency Cabinet meeting was held to discuss the matter.

MNDF revealed that 7 houses and 4 chemical storage facilities caught ablaze. Over 115 people have registered at the relief centres.

Video depicting relief efforts at the National Disaster Management Centre and Kalaafaanu School. VIDEO: MIHAARU

Following reports of missing 49-year-old Aishath Shauna, security forces later discovered her remains at her residence.

According to an acquaintance of the victim, Shauna had contacted an individual and informed that she was trapped inside her building. No further contact was established.

MNDF revealed that no other persons were reported missing, and the victim's body was burnt beyond recognition.

Security forces declared that despite dispatching Fire and Rescue vehicles early to respond to the incident, their entry into the area was impeded by parked vehicles barring arrival onto the scene at the critical moment.

Shauna remains the only confirmed casualty in the incident.

As per The Edition's on-site reporter, a displaced individual stated that he reported a prior chemical leak to the police. However, he claims that no action was taken and that authorities insisted the storage of the combustibles was legal.

Firefighters tackling the last remnants of the fire. VIDEO: TWITTER

As of early morning at 0140 hours on Saturday, local media Mihaaru reported that a singular building remained on fire.

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