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Alert: Nissar  Ahamed - Saudi Arabia / Mangalore 
Riyadh, Sep 30: Hundreds of shops were gutted when a huge fire broke out in the Yemeni and Kerala market areas of the Al-Batha district in downtown Riyadh.

The fire, which erupted soon after iftar, was still raging at 10 p.m., as firefighters struggled to bring it under control. The cause of the fire, which swept through hundreds of textile and other small shops located in the area, was still unknown late last night. The area is also home to several polyclinics and electronic shops.

The fire began in the Yemeni market and quickly engulfed the adjoining Kerala market behind the Safa Makkah Polyclinic building, which was evacuated. There were 400 patients inside when the fire started.

Eyewitnesses told Arab News that the blaze could have been brought under control if the Civil Defense directorate had deployed helicopters.

A thick blanket of smoke covered the entire area around the Al-Batha shopping complex as orange flames leaped out of control, creating panic among onlookers.

The fire is thought to have caused damage estimated to be in millions of riyals. The worst affected area was the Jamal shopping complex. It was hot and suffocating, and the air was filled with acrid smoke, causing bystanders to cough. Many people were in tears. The fire has caused substantial losses to petty shopkeepers, who virtually owned the shops in the names of their sponsors.

Recently, there was another outbreak of fire in the same area that caused extensive damage to property and injuries in an ensuing stampede.

A well-placed source from the insurance market told Arab News that only less than five percent of houses and commercial buildings in the Kingdom have been insured. “Many feel that it is not necessary to be insured against fires when it is a fact that many fires erupt during the summer season or as a result of short-circuit on other occasions,” the source said.


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