Sat, 29 Apr 2000

Fire devastates historical Pasar Gede in Surakarta

SURAKARTA, Central Java (JP): Fire devastated Pasar Gede, the oldest traditional market in Central Java in the early hours of Friday morning, leaving more than 1,000 vendors jobless.

No fatalities were reported in the blaze, but the losses resulting from the fire, which destroyed almost every building in the market, were estimated to be around Rp 10 billion.

"The total losses are still being calculated. It is a shame to lose such an historical building," Mayor Slamet Suryanto told media at the scene of the incident.

The blaze reportedly started at round 1 a.m. and quickly escalated, police said.

It took at least eight fire engines three hours to put out the fire, thanks in part to the help of firefighters from the neighboring towns of Sukoharjo, Karanganyar, Sragen, Boyolali and Klaten.

"A brief investigation revealed that the fire was caused by faulty wiring in a billiard center office located on the second floor of the market," Surakarta Police chief Lt. Col. Robby Kaligis said.

As of Friday afternoon the police and rescue teams from local and PDI Perjuangan civilian guards were seen sifting through the debris.

"So far we haven't found any fatalities in this case," Robby said.

The market, built in the early 1930s with the help of a Dutch architect, houses some 170 kiosks in its compound.

It was originally named Pasar Hardjonagoro by the sultanate ruler Pakubuwono X.

Since then the market has been renovated several times without changing its original structure and design.

Mayor Slamet said the first group of 500 vendors will be relocated to the nearby Benteng Plaza parking lot in two weeks.

Fire also gutted the plaza and the mayoralty administration office during riots that followed Megawati Soekarnoputri's loss in the presidential election last October.

"We are still looking for investors as we do not have any money to rebuild the market. We don't even have a budget to renovate our office," Slamet said.

In the Bali capital of Denpasar, fire also razed the four- story MA Department Store in the city's business center on Jl. Diponegoro at dawn on Friday.

No fatalities were reported in the incident which was estimated to have caused billions of rupiah in losses.

The store, which specialized in selling accessories and clothing, had just undergone renovation.

Witnesses said the blaze started around 4 a.m. on the second floor and quickly spread.

"The third floor had been recently renovated and the second floor was still under reconstruction," said Lt. Col. Lukas Gunawan, chief of Denpasar City Police.

Four fire engines managed to localize the blaze before putting it out around 7 a.m. It was reported that firefighters encountered difficulty in reaching the upper floors of the building.

"We didn't have long enough ladders to reach the top floors," a fireman said.

Police have questioned several witnesses, including employees and on-duty security guards, over the incident. But details on the cause of the fire remain undisclosed. (har/zen/edt)