Merchants promised compensation

Erbil governor announces support measures for Qaysari Bazaar

ERBIL — In response to the recent devastating fire at Qaysari Bazaar, the governor of Erbil convened a meeting today with affected merchants and business owners to discuss support and preventive measures.

The governor expressed ‘deep concern’ for the impacted businesses and reassured attendees of the local government’s commitment to assist in recovery efforts. “Despite the unfortunate circumstances, our commitment to the business community in Qaysari Bazaar remains unwavering. We are more distressed by this event than you might realize, and we will not leave you to cope alone,” he said, according to a press release from his office.

The meeting addressed several key issues and resulted in the announcement of various initiatives aimed at aiding recovery and preventing future incidents. The first action will be an investigation into why the fire suppression system failed during the incident and an overhaul of this system to prevent similar failures. Additionally, the entire market will undergo a comprehensive reorganization to restore it for public access.

Immediate commencement of renovation for the damaged areas of the bazaar was also decided upon. This includes the interior of shops, exterior facades, streets within the market, and the general roofing structure. The authorties will also address deficiencies in the market’s water and electricity systems and remove all violations and hazards that contribute to incidents like fires, specifically targeting the prohibition of curtains in shops, which were identified as a primary factor in the fire’s spread.

Security at the bazaar will see significant changes, say the authorities. Guards from private firms previously stationed at Qaysari Bazaar will be replaced by police forces to ensure enhanced security and protection.

Financially, the governor announced a one-year rent waiver for any government-owned shop space that suffered damage in the fire. Additionally, merchants who incurred losses from the fire will be exempt from paying six months of fees for waste and debris removal and shop signage. Tax relief will also be provided for all merchants affected by the fire, with a 50% tax exemption for 2023 and a full exemption for 2024.

Merchants affected by the fire will also be eligible to apply for interest-free loans from Cihan Bank for a period of 24 to 36 months, following guidelines from the Central Bank and upon obtaining a support document from Erbil’s Crisis Management Directorate. Moreover, any merchant who lost Iraqi dinars in the fire and has proof of such losses will receive government assistance for compensation through the Central Bank’s Erbil branch.

Cleanup operations at the Qaysari Bazaar concluded on Saturday, nearly a week after the devastating fire, initially estimated to take up to 10 days.

The recent massive fire at Qaysari Bazaar marks the latest in a series of fires affecting markets in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region. This year alone, the city has experienced nine large-scale bazaar fires, all causing significant financial damage.

Initial investigations into the Qaysari Bazaar fire suggested an electrical short might have been the cause, a common explanation for other recent market fires in the area. However, the Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Electricity, after forming an investigative committee, stated that there was no evidence to confirm that the fire resulted from an electrical issue.

In the aftermath of the blaze, Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Masrour Barzani visited the devastated site and pledged support for recovery efforts. He also emphasized the urgency of determining the fire’s cause. “This investigation needs to be conducted as quickly as possible,” Barzani stated during his visit, addressing Erbil Governor Omed Khoshnaw who accompanied him.

Furthering the commitment to uncover the cause of the fire, Iraq’s acting parliament speaker, Muhsin Al-Mandalawi, directed the formation of another investigative committee.