Deadly Fire Rips Through Shopping Mall in Syrian Capital

A night-time fire in a shopping centre in the Syrian capital Damascus has killed at least 11 people, the interior ministry said, in one of the deadliest blazes in recent years.

Many of those killed on Tuesday were security guards or staff who were on duty overnight in the six-story building, said Ahmad Abbas, the director of civil defense.

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear.

“Eleven people have died as a result of the fire in the La Mirada Mall, and two people have been rescued,” the interior ministry said.

The fire caused “extensive material damage”, it added, ripping through stores that sold clothes, leather goods, and cosmetics – many of which were highly flammable.

“Investigations are underway to determine the cause of the blaze,” the ministry statement read.

Incidents of fire are reported frequently in the Syrian capital – some caused by electrical short-circuits, others by unsafe heating methods.

One witness, Hani, 52, who asked to be identified only by his first name, said the fire broke out at approximately 3 am (01:00 GMT).

“The fire started on the top floor and started to spread quickly to other levels,” he said.

‘My Livelihood Is Gone’

At least 20 fire engines helped douse the blaze, said Abbas, the director of civil defence.

“It took about four hours for us to bring the fire under control,” he said, adding that the victims died either of suffocation or of severe burns.

“They were all guards working at the mall, or workers on duty,” Abbas said.

Mohammad Aboulreesh, from the Hospital of Damascus, said they had received seven corpses that had been badly burned and were yet to be identified, according to the official SANA news agency.

A correspondent of the AFP news agency saw fire engines stationed outside the charred façade of the shopping mall, where dozens of businesses had been destroyed.

“We have asked everyone to stay away from the area to facilitate civil defense operations,” a fire department official told AFP on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Despite the security cordon, dozens flocked to the scene, including business owners who rushed to check on their shops.

One shop owner collapsed when he saw the damage.

“My livelihood is gone … my money is gone,” he wailed.

The fire comes a week after a blaze in a hospital in Syria’s second city of Aleppo killed three people, sparked by a short-circuit, according to the SANA news agency.

In September last year, a firefighter died and two civilians were injured in a blaze that destroyed a fabric warehouse in the Old City of Damascus, SANA said.

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