Haiti’s iconic Iron Market, one of the biggest tourist attraction in downtown Port-au-Prince, was ravaged early Tuesday morning by an early-morning fire that spread through the building while many of the vendors and their merchandise were inside.
Based on the images from the scene, the merchants tried until about noon on Tuesday to save their merchandise from the flames. In addition to serving hundreds of sedentary merchants, the Market also serves as a repository for other window dressers. Hours later with hundreds of pictures and video surfing online, we are still unclear what sparked the fire, but witnesses are reporting it may be a trash fire or political.
One of the saddest videos is this one of a mother of three who lost all her merchandise in the fire. Singer Flav from Gabel posted the video on his Instagram page asking fans to help him find her so he can pay for her children tuition.
According to Le Nouvelliste, the firefighters on the scene did their best to put out the fire. When the fire truck arrived at the scene the truck did not have water. Port-au-Prince, for years, does not have a well-equipped firefighting service. For the fire at the Iron Market, other fire stations, Delmas and elsewhere, had to fly to the rescue of the victims.
The iron market had already been affected by a fire in May 2008 and was completely destroyed by the 2010 earthquake. The Iron Market was rebuilt identically by Denis O’Brien, CEO of Digicel, for $ 12 million a year after the earthquake of January 2010. It was to represent the renewal of downtown of Port-au-Prince during its inauguration in 2011 in the presence of Bill Clinton and a skewer of guests. After years of lean cows, the Market was once again a tourist attraction and one of the most beautiful markets in the country.
The Marché en Fer was built in 1890s Paris for a railway station in Cairo. When that plan was canceled, Haitian president Florvil Hyppolite purchased it and had it brought to Haiti in 1891. The market has been torched several times and was in a state of disrepair before it was abandoned in 2008. The market was completely destroyed by the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Designated as a “historical heritage” by the Institut de Sauvegarde du Patrimoine National, it was rebuilt and reopened a year after the earthquake, with the financial support Denis O’Brien, owner of the mobile phone company Digicel.
After its reconstruction by the Digicel, it was renamed “the SAM Iron Market” and became a joint stock company. Digicel holds the majority of the shares and manages the building.
We visited the market last week during our recent trip to Haiti with Karen Civil and Pierre Garcon. The news of the market fire really broke our heart as we reach out to anyone we could find to see how we can help.
We hosted a live stream with friend of the blog Samuel Dameus who gave us information on the ins and outs of the market and how he thinks the diasporas can really help the victims.
The President of the Republic, Jovenel Moise, members of his government and the commissioner of the government of Port-AU-Prince, Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant visited the affected traders in the iron market. Video Source: Primature Haitienne
Here are a few of our updated images of the aftermath of the fire taken by our contributor Paul Prinvil who is currently in Haiti.