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Iraq: Fire rips through Erbil's historic Qaysari bazaar

Over 200 shops damaged in market first established in 12th century, as Kurdish city hit by third fire in three months
Firefighters douse the flames after a fire broke out at a marketplace in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's northern autonomous Kurdish region, late on 5 May 2024 (AFP/Safin Hamid)
Firefighters douse flames after a fire broke out at a marketplace in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's northern autonomous Kurdish region, 5 May 2024 (AFP/Safin Hamid)

A fire that broke out in a famed bazaar in the Iraqi city of Erbil has destroyed over 200 shops and depots. 

The Qaysari bazaar, located south of Erbil's historic citadel, was engulfed in flames on Sunday night. 

"I spoke with Omed Khoshnaw, the governor of Erbil, and he assured me that the firefighting teams are exerting all efforts to control the fire at Erbil’s grand bazaar," Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan's regional government, said on X.

"We will continue to monitor the situation and commend the first responders for their bravery."

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The blaze was brought under control by emergency teams after around three hours, according to local media. The cause of the fire remains unclear.

Khoshnaw told reporters on Sunday that several people were wounded in the fire, adding that there were no deaths. 

Footage shared by local media showed gold shop owners leaving the engulfed bazaar with bags full of gold, under the protection of armed security forces. 

A number of arrests were made on charges of theft in the bazaar following the blaze. 

The Qaysari bazaar, which translates to "covered market", was first established in the late 12th century. It has sections specialising in gold, fabrics, flowers, kitchenware, locally produced honey, fresh walnuts and dairy products. 

Erbil's ancient citadel dates back to the fifth century BCE, and is a Unesco World Heritage site. 

Several fires have hit Erbil in recent months. In early April, a large fire broke out in Erbil's Langa bazaar, destroying several textile and clothing shops. Three people were arrested by Iraqi Kurdish authorities over suspected involvement. 

The same bazaar caught fire in February too, leaving 166 shops ablaze. 

The repeated instances of fires have raised questions about fire safety standards in the region. 

Khoshnaw said the Kurdish government was concerned about the repeated fires, and had set up a committee to investigate the causes. 

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