Crossroads Asia

Another Fire at Osh Bazaar in Bishkek

Friday’s blaze was the third at the market since January.

Another Fire at Osh Bazaar in Bishkek
Credit: Flickr / valerian1985

On April 13, ran a short piece with a simple headline: “In Bishkek Osh Market Burns Again.” The story, which was quickly overtaken by follow up pieces with details of the fire, noted that it was the third major fire at the market since the beginning of 2018.

The Osh market, better known in English as the Osh Bazaar, sits on Bishkek’s western side. It is one of the city’s largest markets, with offerings of nearly every kind imaginable, from food and clothing to souvenirs — much of which is imported from China for resale.

The latest fire began at approximately 3:50 am on Friday, April 13. According to the Kyrgyz Ministry of Emergency Situations, it was localized by 7:40. On Saturday, local media reported that the ministry said the fire had consumed 5,412 square meters. Nine people, including seven firefighters, were injured in the blaze.

A fire in January reportedly swept through 3,500 square meters of the market. Earlier last week, reported that the preliminary causes of the January fire, and a second fire in March, had been identified — faulty wiring in the January case, and arson for the March fire. The 74 businessowners impacted by the January fire were granted a year delay in their loan repayments as compensation.

While police opened a criminal investigation into the latest fire, Osh retailers took to the streets near the White House in Bishkek — demanding compensation for their loses and rent relief while they rebuild their enterprises. Protesters stood out front of the Kyrgyz parliament on Monday, clutching umbrellas as spring rain soaked Bishkek, demanding that government officials come out and hear their complaints. Ten protesters were reportedly invited in and met with Prime Minister Sapar Isakov as well as the minister of internal affairs and minister of emergency situations. According to one of the protesters, Isakov reportedly promised the market would be restored within a month — a timeline disputed by the government, which said Isakov simply promised new construction “as soon as possible, taking into account all relevant norms.”

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Images from the market show gutted stalls, blackened remnants, and destroyed merchandise. Some sellers suspect arson, while the criminal investigation is examining the blaze for arson as well as possible violations of safety rules.