A week after a fire razed more than 20 old car yards, garages and spare parts shops in Wadi Kabir Industrial Area to the ground, owners are anxiously waiting to hear about compensation from authorities. Having lost their livelihood, some of these business owners and workers claim the way forward is to rebuild what they lost in the fire.
One owner of a used spares business, Jordanian national Mohammed Basheer said, “The authorities asked us and investigated how the fire broke out and the estimated cost of loss. I have been instructed not to remove, or even touch, the burnt stock in my yard until further notice.”
After his only source of livelihood went up in flames, Muneer Hussain – another spare parts yard owner – is left with little patience. “As soon as the authorities allow us, I will sell my burnt stock as scrap and return home to Pakistan. I cannot rebuild this business. I don’t have the resources to rebuild the stock I lost in the fire.”
Hussain is resigned to his fate and has reposed his trust in the authorities. “Oman and Omani authorities are always caring and supportive. I have full faith in whatever decision they take regarding our losses. I will accept it happily.”
Hussain has no place to stay either; his accommodation above his yard is burnt too. He now relies on friends’ generosity for a place to sleep and food too.
“Since my flat too was destroyed in the fire, I have sent my family back home to Pakistan,” said Irfan Yaqoob.
Five cars belonging to customers which he was repairing were charred in the fire in his garage. According to Yaqoob, it’s about time the authorities introduced an affordable insurance plan, “maybe something similar to third party insurance for cars”, to cover the vehicles parked in Wadi Kabir garages for repairs.
“Insurance for garages is too high for small garages like ours. It is impossible for us to pay the premium every year, especially during the ongoing pandemic when our business is already slow and we are struggling to meet our daily needs.”
The five customer vehicles that were parked in Yaqoob’s garage for repairs when the fire broke out had third party insurance. The owners expect him to pay for their cars.
“Unless the authorities provide some kind of compensation for our losses, we will not be able to help our customers because we have already lost our livelihood. My survival depends on my community’s help.”
One of the two-storey buildings, with garages on the ground floor and residential units on the first, which caught fire on the afternoon of February 18 was owned by Yahya al Rahbi.
“I have 20 buildings in Wadi Kabir and all are insured. The burnt building too was insured. I have opened the insurance claim and am waiting for the insurance company to complete the inspection and claim process,” Rahbi said.
He informed that the fire has damaged the building’s structure significantly. “I think the municipality will cancel the building and I will need to rebuild it.”
Photo and Text by Syed Fasiuddin
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