More than 250 vendors in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai watched in shock as their stalls went up in flames in a five-hour blaze late Thursday and early Friday.
No one was killed but investigators said the fire caused damages of around VND15 billion (US$802,600) to the Krong Pa District market.
Eighty-five percent of the goods were destroyed while 276 out of 300 stalls were burnt to ground. Among the ashes were wads of cash, gold and other valuables that the vendors had left in their booths. Some vendors said they had spent their life savings and even taken out bank loans to invest in the stalls.
"Now we've got nothing," said a vendor whose booth was burned down. "It will be very hard to stand up again."
Authorities said the fire started at a store in the center of the market, possibly from an electricity leakage. But investigators had yet to reach a final conclusion.
The 3,000-square-meters market was a temporary building housing vendors until a new market currently under construction is finished. Thus, many booths were made by materials that easily catch fire such as wood and plastic canvas. There was a small water pump and several fire extinguishers available but it was windy when the fire broke out at around 8 p.m. Thursday.
It also took rather long for fire fighters to arrive from Pleiku town around 140 kilometers away. They only managed to stop the fire from spreading to residential houses nearby. The task was made harder by looters who took advantage of the situation to steal things from the burning market.
Tran Van Manh, chairman of Krong Pa District People's Committee, said the district will give VND2 million to all vendors that lost booths and want to resume business there.
The district has also asked the local branches of the Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development to let such vendors borrow more money.