CAIRO: Mogamaa El Ahram, a major commercial compound located in Maadi, was gutted after a fire broke out early morning yesterday.
The fire tore through the mammoth structure made of plastic, metal and other combustible material. The compound also housed outlets including popular restaurants, car workshops and coffee shops.
According to witnesses, the fire started at 2:30 am near the cables that supply the compound with electricity. But investigations are still underway to establish the actual cause of the fire which destroyed the entire compound.
The compound, located close to the Maadi Public Library and the Olympic Village, also skirts a poor residential area that is separated from it by a big wall.
Residents were shocked when they saw the billowing flames lighting up the sky and some ran away in fear.
No fatalities were reported as the fire broke out when most of the shops were closed. Only some patrons of the coffee shops, located on the other end of the compound away from where the fire started, were said to have sustained minor injuries.
Combustible materials out of which the building is constructed as well as other flammable objects like gas cylinders, batteries and car tires fuelled the fire. Coupled with the force of the wind, the fire destroyed the whole structure in the space of half an hour.
The area was cordoned off by police and security forces spread out to block access to the artery street that runs parallel to the compound. Some fire engines were still waiting at different points and, according to residents, firefighters were still at work in the area housing a car tire shop.
Traffic was diverted from that street and motorists were forced to U-turn. The crowds of people who had congregated in the surrounding area were in a state of shock and began to inquire about the cause of the fire.
Ali Gaber who lives nearby said: “To the best of my belief, something must have gone wrong with the cables that are kept in a room near that mosque located at one end of the compound. Those who witnessed the fire said that it started near the mosque.
Many taxi drivers who know the shop owners were saddened by the losses their friends had suffered.
Abdel Qader, a mini-bus driver commented: “Don’t underestimate the losses, as this was a thriving business area. The tire shop owner must have lost at least some LE.2 million. Some of the rents here hit LE 8,000.
Mogama Al Ahram was built 25 years ago as part of a chain of compounds that spread across the country to provide consumers with subsidized, low price food. The subsidized food outlet at the center of the compound is flanked by other shops that are rented out to traders.
The commercial compound is situated close to a residential area in Maadi known as El Arab, ensuring it receives all types of consumers and a mixed clientele.