Apia flea market fire destroys $1M of stock

Apia flea market fire destroys $1M of stock

One of Samoa's most iconic markets has burned to the ground, destroying more than $1 million-worth of stock and doing huge damage to the local economy.

The flea market at Savalalo has been a fixture in downtown Apia for decades, and is popular with locals and tourists alike.

As firefighters tried to save the Savalalo flea market, its fate was already clear to onlookers – "no more".

The fire took hold around 6pm last night, local time. Early speculation suggests an electrical fault or gas leak could be to blame.

Jonathon Porter was one of those who watched.

"There was big smoke, and there was a fire up three storeys high," he says. "So everyone around the city just gathered and went to where the flea market was."

The markets had closed for the day, and so far no injuries have been reported. But Samoans living locally and here in New Zealand are already counting the cost to the economy.

"They are all small businesses, and a lot of these people are devastated by the fire," says Auckland-based Samoa Trade Commissioner Fonoti Dr Lafita'i Fuata'i. "And I think it's burnt all of their stuff."

Their stuff includes locally crafted tapa cloths and picture frames. Hundreds of shirts would have been on sale too, each worth around $60.

The total cost of lost stock is estimated at more than $1 million – devastating for local vendors who rely on the markets as a source of income.

"They are very important to the economy of Apia and our local people," says Mr Fonoti. "So for the Savalalo market to go, it's going to affect a lot of households, especially in Apia.

He expects relatives of those vendors living overseas will offer as much help as they can.

He also says there are other markets where vendors can set up in future, though he admits none will be quite the same as those at Savalalo.

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