9 Injured, millions of dollars in losses in Guatemala fire

Guatemala City, Mar 25 (EFE).- A massive blaze Tuesday in this capital's largest market left nine people injured and caused an estimated $90 million in damage, Guatemalan authorities said.

The fire broke out about 2:30 a.m. in the La Terminal market and firefighters were hampered in their efforts to extinguish it due to the lack of water, said first responders, who used more than 2 million liters (528,000 gallons) over the course of more than nine hours.

Seven tenants of the market suffered slight burns when flaming plastic landed on them, and two others were injured when they tried to save their merchandise, while about 50 people showed symptoms of smoke inhalation, paramedics said.

At least "700 of the 1,400 shops" in the market were destroyed by the fire, which apparently was started by a short circuit, according to the spokesman for the municipal administration, Carlos Sandoval.

The flames spread quickly not only because the shops and vending stands were made of wood, plastic and other flammable materials, but also because most of them were equipped with gas cylinders that exploded, police officer Amilcar Montejo told media outlets.

Preliminary estimates place the material losses at up to 700 million quetzales ($90.5 million) given that some businessmen had invested between 100,000 and 200,000 quetzales ($12,936 to $25,873) in their shops, police spokesman Pablo Castillo told reporters.

After touring the site, President Otto Perez Molina said that his government will provide financial support to rebuild La Terminal.

Crews from the Communications and Defense ministries will clean up the site and then the Social Development Ministry will make an official evaluation of the losses so that it, along with the capital municipal authorities, may allocate funds to rebuild the market, Perez Molina said.

La Terminal is the city's main market where hundreds of vendors from all over the country come to sell their wares.