Mon, 10 Jan 2000

Fire destroys four blocks of souvenir market in Kuta

KUTA, Bali (JP): Fire destroyed four blocks of a five-block souvenir market here on Sunday, causing at least Rp 5 billion in losses.

No fatalities were reported.

Eyewitnesses said the fire started at about 7:00 a.m. local time at a kiosk in Block A.

"Strong wind apparently caused the fire to escalate in a very short time. We were unable to contain it," an eyewitness said.

Most of the kiosks were closed during the Muslim holiday of Idul Fitri, which was celebrated on Saturday and Sunday. Their owners had returned home for celebrations.

Chairman of the roadside vendors association, Zainuddin, said that at least 512 kiosks in Block A, B, C and D were razed.

He speculated that a short circuit might have caused the fire. "It was not done by an arsonist," he said.

Badung regent IGB Alit Putra, who visited the site after the fire was put out at about 11:00 a.m., said the local administration would help kiosk owners rebuild the market.

The souvenir market, situated at Kuta Central parking lot, was rebuilt by the Badung regency after the 1998 arson.

Sources said that Kuta residents were upset by the noisy roadside souvenir vendors. The locals accused the vendors of contributing to "chaos" and a soaring crime rate in the well- known tourist resort.

In an earlier incident in Badung on Friday, hundreds of Dusun Sekarmukti residents in Petang district vandalized state tap water company PDAM Jaya, demanding a normal water supply.

The attack began at 8:00 p.m. when a mob threw pieces of wood and stones at the building before destroying the company's main gate. Three security guards were forced to flee as the number of attackers increased.

Chief of Petang police subprecinct, Lt. Dewa Kebon, said the disgruntled residents staged their first protest in the morning. "PDAM officials then promised to supply them with water. However, water ran for only about 30 minutes."

A protesting resident said, "We've been running out of tap water for two weeks, and we need water for the celebrations of Galungan and Kuningan."

"We are not supplied with water, but we must pay the bill on time. PDAM always imposes fines for any delay of payment, even if it's only 15 minutes," he said.

The residents broke water meters at their homes in an initial protest against PDAM's poor service.

An agreement was finally reached at 11:00 a.m. between representatives of the residents and PDAM officials, who promised to bring the tap water supply back to normal. (zen/sur)