Kingston vendors cry arson

KINGSTON, Jamaica – In-between drying tears and sweat, and rummaging for valuables among the charred rubble of stalls, vendors seethed as they blamed arsonists for a fire that razed the Jubilee Market in downtown Kingston Sunday morning.

“Tell me, is it right for you to work so hard and man come every day fi money, clothes and shoes and when yuh nuh give dem, you lose everything yuh have?” asked one seller.

“Tears is a language that God understands,” lamented another merchant, saying the tears of the victims would haunt the alleged perpetrators.

The Constabulary Communication Network, Jamaica’s police liaison arm, said the cause of the fire was unknown. An estimate of the damage was unavailable.

It was the second massive fire at the market in five years. A blaze in 2003 had caused widespread devastation. Reconstruction was billed at $12 million.

Scores of vendors, lamenting the economic setback, sifted through sharp nails and zinc to recover any goods that might have escaped the inferno, which reportedly started at 12:15 a.m.

Nearby, another woman – hands covered in charcoal soot and toes splattered with mud – gathered a heap of damaged designer clothes.

“Mi nuh know how much longer wi a guh bear dis,” she said.

Burnt-out refrigerators, microwaves and clothes were other evidence of the midnight horror.

One woman told The Gleaner that she was sleeping in the arcade with her children when one of them alerted her to the fire.

“Mi turn fool, mi nuh know what to do. Mi try save something, but everything happen so fast,” she said, picking up undamaged items of clothes from the murky ground.

The woman said that neither she nor her children had eaten all day.

“Mi lose everything. Mi pickney dem fi go school Monday and mi nuh know how dem a go reach cause mi lose everything,” she added.

Sunday morning’s fiery setback came on the heels of a slow Christmas shopping season. Marcia, a fire victim who declined to give her surname, said the holiday profits had already been ploughed into back-to-school items for her children.

“Mi spend back everything yesterday and buy some stock till when mi done mi couldn’t even buy food and this happen – fire,” Marcia said.