Iconic market in Central Java razed

Traders from Klewer Market in Surakarta, Central Java, are demanding the city administration to provide them with a temporary market location following a fire at the province's textile market on Saturday evening.

The fire was first detected on the second floor of the iconic market at about 8 p.m. Saturday, or three hours after the market's official operational hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. ended.

No fatalities were reported in the fire but the financial losses are estimated to reach Rp 5 trillion (S$529 million) as some 1,660 of the 2,100 kiosks located in the market were destroyed.

Surakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) acting chairman Eko Nugroho said that firefighters deployed 30 fire engines. Yet, he said, they could only extinguish the main fire at about 7 a.m. the following day (Sunday), before the fire reignited at 10 a.m.

Eko blamed this on many factors, including strong wind and the fact that 90 per cent of the market's merchandise was textiles that were relatively flammable.

"This made it difficult to locate the main spot where the fire started. We could only localize the flames by spraying water over the building," Eko said Sunday.

He also said many traders refused to open their kiosks to help the firefighters enter the market.

Responding to this, the Klewer Market traders' association spokesperson, Kusbini, said the traders were worried about their merchandise being looted so they were reluctant to open up.

Bambang, one of the market traders, said that both batik kiosks he had inherited from his parents had been completely destroyed in the fire.

"I could not save anything," said Bambang, who claimed to have suffered Rp 1 billion in losses, as he watched fellow traders trying to salvage anything from their kiosks.

"I do hope the administration will provide us with an emergency market to return to business," Bambang said.

Support for the establishment of an emergency market came from City Council's speaker Teguh Prakosa. He said an emergency market was what the traders needed most in the near future.

"Rebuilding the market will take years. During that time, traders have to move on with their lives," Teguh said.

Separately, Surakarta Mayor FX Hadi Rudyatmo said that his administration had coordinated with the central government for the establishment of an emergency market for Klewer traders, but could not yet say when it would be established.

Meanwhile, through his Facebook account, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who is also a former Surakarta mayor, asked Rudyatmo to handle the fire thoroughly.

"A moment ago I heard news that the Solo Klewer Market had caught fire. I hope this can be handled soon and Pak Rudi, the mayor, can act with alacrity," the President wrote, referring to the popular nickname of Surakarta.

He also called on volunteers in Surakarta to join hands in helping firefighters extinguish the fire. He said Klewer Market was a historical legacy of Sunan Pakubuwono X's era that had developed into a batik trade centre.

"It has to be maintained," he said.

As of Sunday afternoon, the fire had not been completely extinguished.