Times of Oman
Nov 27, 2015 LAST UPDATED AT 12:37 PM GMT
Oman's historic Muttrah souq at risk from fire
August 31, 2014 | 12:00 AM
A fire in a garment-selling shop on Saturday morning caused a loss of OMR18,000. Photo: Times of Oman

Muscat: Shops in and around the Muttrah Souq should adopt more safety measures and act sensibly to avoid fire accidents in the future, a Majlis Shura member has said.

"Lack of safety measures is leading to fire accidents in the area. Risks from fire accidents are too high. There as more than 500 shops located in the narrow by-lanes of this small area. Shop owners should come forward and find a solution to the decades-old issue. Shops have been operating in unsafe conditions due to various reasons and must avoid disasters in the future," the Shura member told the Times of Oman.

A fire in a garment-selling shop on Saturday morning caused a loss of OMR18,000.

"Some years back, a huge fire had caused damage worth millions in the same area. The accidents have been recurring. But, many of the shopkeepers show negligence in adopting safety measures. They should follow the rules set by the authorities. Moreover, they should also limit the amount of goods stocked in shops to avoid huge losses. Shops are not meant to stock goods. For that, they should find some warehouses," the Shura member added.

The Saturday fire happened in a shop that had opened shortly after renovation. Mohammed Mateen, the shop owner, had spent OMR2,500 for renovation and had stocked costly material in the shop, which was not insured.

No insurance cover
According to shop owners in the area, a majority of the shops are not insured due to various reasons.

"Most of the shop owners are ignorant of the importance of having their shop insured. Many say that they don't earn that much money to pay insurance premiums. In addition to this, we have seen that the insurance companies are a little reluctant in providing insurance cover for our shops in the area citing the risk factor of the location," the shop owners said.

"The area is becoming more congested as the number of shops is increasing exponentially every year. Even though the authorities have set out rules to ensure safety, many ignore it. This is increasing the threat level," the shop owners said, adding that the authorities should study the issue in detail, set rules and make sure that everybody follows them.

Not legally bound
Meanwhile, an insurance official said that shops are not legally bound to have insurance cover.

"As the shops are not legally bound to have insurance cover, many skip it. It is a bad practice. Having an insurance cover can help avoid huge losses. By paying a small premium annually, shops can be insured," an insurance official said.

However, the official added that all kinds of risk factors will be studied before providing insurance cover to these shops.

"Due to many reasons, shops in the Muttrah area fall under high risk category," the official added.

Property damaged
Two years ago, when a fire in a textile shop in Muttrah Souq damaged property and goods worth OMR100,000, the fire fighters had to struggle to contain the fire as the tankers could not enter the narrow by-lanes of the souq.

Meanwhile, the Shura member suggested that in addition to adopting safety measures, shop owners can try to have a joint insurance coverage scheme with proper checks.

"If shop owners are struggling to avail of individual insurance cover, they can try to have some joint scheme," the Shura member added.
Get in touch with the reporter at reji@timesofoman.com

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