‘Cause and compensation’ – livelihood of Parika vendors hangs in the balance


By Kurt Campbell


Certain of the cause, scores of vendors at the Parika Market on the East Bank of Essequibo are pressing the authorities to engage them in talks for compensation following the devasting fire that completely gutted the complex on Friday.

For many vendors at the Parika Market, Saturday is one of the best days for sales and they had hoped to return today to mark the end of a good week and the beginning of another.

But it was a mixture of anger, frustration and hurt for those vendors and their families as they stood behind Police barriers to watch the debris of millions of dollars of retail commodities.

Sparks from welding as part of renovation works to upgrade the market reportedly ignited a blaze in a stall that later spread and completely destroyed the market.

Those who plied their trade on the outskirts of the market were also not spared.

Many persons were seen searching through rubble on Saturday to retrieve what they considered valuable but for the stall owners, everything is lost.

Many persons were seen searching through rubble on Saturday to retrieve what they considered valuable (Photo: News Room/February 11, 2023)

“I couldn’t save a pin. I’m a widow and this is what I depend on to live, I don’t have no income nowhere, I have nothing to gain, nothing,” Meena told the News Room as she wiped tears from her eyes.

She operated several stalls in the market for over 30 years alongside almost 100 other vendors who have been there for equally as long.

They all seemed certain of the cause of the fire.

“When they was welding, the fire fall down and all we could do was run out and save we life and everything gone,” Sonia Dasram recounted.

The vendors said they were never informed that they needed to completely remove from the market for the construction works, only that they needed to cooperate and make space for the work to progress.

Stephen Parsram, who operated stalls in the market for over 20 years, said he personally received the assurance from ministers of the government that the construction work will not affect the vendors.

He, too, is certain that the fire started as a result of the welding works and called on the government to render much-needed assistance.

“Everybody here, their whole life what they work for, it gone down because of negligence…the government has to come here and compensate us for what happen because this is not our fault.

“Nobody told us to move. They said no one will be affected. Last week, they said an excavator needs to pass through and they need a 10 feet clearance to dig a foundation but nobody was given a legitimate notice that you have to move,” Parsram added.

Tonza, a vendor, also recounted Friday’s events.

She said the stall where the fire started usually retails colognes and clothing, all flammable commodities.

“The spark from the welding keep falling down and then all we hear is a big boom and it start running up.”

Opposition Parliamentarian Ganesh Mahipaul engages the vendors (Photo: News Room/February 11, 2023)

Vendors are also not satisfied with the response of the Guyana Fire Service.

“A lot of things would have been saved here today. It was poor man. It’s probably an hour and a half. They took a while,” Ryan who owns a barbershop in the market related.

He also suffered losses as a result of looters who took advantage of the situation and the absence of security forces.

“I ran through the fire and I beg the fire truck to come to save and I ask them to come and they said the heat they can’t drive.

“When they do come, the pump not starting, no water… they didn’t try to save nothing in this market,” Samlall said.

On Friday, Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn revealed that preliminary investigations confirmed that the fire ignited due to the welding works.

Officials from the government are expected to meet with the affected vendors who lost millions of dollars in merchandise. None of them has insurance.

1 Comment
  1. Derk says

    No one knows more that the one who experiences these incidents and this case the vendors, families and the community whom they serve, it is distressing indeed.
    I am happy that the Government has intervened as it always does ,to assist in practical ways to assist and bring relief at this time.
    However,I do believe the time if ever is overdue for all vendors to be insured against incidents of this nature where ever they ply their trade.
    On the other hand I find it difficult to comprehend that vending was permitted in an environment which was under construction and in this case where welding was involved .
    I am very troubled by the amount of fires occurring in Guyana and it’s adverse effect on the countries economy, the individuals and the long term on the health of people .
    Therefore,I would wish suggest like many others that local and international experts be consulted to determine the toxic nature of the smoke plume produced during these fires.
    In my humble view knowing the content of the will be a revelation and which I feel will serve as a one way of preventing some fires if not most.

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