Help for Apia market stallholders promised

Help for Apia market stallholders promised

Samoa's Prime Minister has promised assistance to hundreds of stallholders at the Apia market, which burned to the ground on Saturday afternoon.

It's estimated the blaze caused $1 million worth of damage and the many business owners with no insurance are relying on the Government to step in and help.

The smoke's still rising from Savalalo market, an Apia icon turned ashen scrap heap. The embers are kept burning by 30degC heat, four days after it went up in flames.

Helene Frost runs a shop just across the street. She says she was lucky to find it still standing.

But she now doesn't know if her shop will survive if the Savalalo markets aren't rebuilt where they stood.

"So far so good, I have no idea. So far so good, but whatever the Government decides."

Uncertainty's rife in central Apia where so many relied on the markets to live.

It's a hardship not lost on Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoim, who says the winds of cyclone Victor made the damage worse.

"So, it came at a very bad time."

Mr Tuilaepa will meet tomorrow with 230 Savalalo stallholders whose stocks now lie in the smouldering dirt.

Many of them have no insurance.  They'll rely on the Government to help them rebuild.

In the short term, tents will be set up on site so stallholders again have a place to trade. But in the long term, this land is earmarked for developers – a new business precinct built by Chinese investment. So the markets will have to start over again somewhere else.

The cause of the blaze has been traced back to a pile of papers in a coffee shop which caught fire and spread to a propane gas canister.

Within minutes the whole of Savalalo was burning and it'll take much longer for Apia to rebuild.

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