Reports about the damage from this weekend’s massive fire in the customs office of the border town of Islam Qala in Herat province are conflicting, and officials say they are assessing the impact of the incident and that in some areas the blaze was extinguished as late as Monday.
The fire broke out in the customs office on Saturday afternoon and was extinguished after 24 hours, according to the Finance Ministry.
Hundreds of investors and truck-owners gathered outside the Herat governor’s office, saying that corruption in the customs office is the cause of the fire.
“They should compensate us. We didn't get [our assets] for free,” said Khalil Ahmad, a driver.
“The governor should pass on our message to the president and high-ranking officials. We need compensation. We’re devastated,” said Abdul Qadir, a driver.
“All those who are here had one truck or had a 50% share in it,” said Tariq Salehi, a driver.
The Chamber of Commerce and Investment has estimated the costs to investors and truck owners to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The chamber warned that Herat economy would face a recession if those affected are not supported.
“It cannot be compensated without the government’s help,” said Yunus Qazizada, head of the Herat Chamber of Commerce and Investment.
Herat governor Sayed Waheed Qatali said dozens of goods trucks were “looted” during the incident but were recovered by security forces, adding that the fire happened due to negligence and corruption in the customs office.
Investors have said that 700 to 1,000 trucks caught fire, but Qatali said that at least 2,000 vehicles were evacuated from the area during the incident.
“Eighty percent of our time was spent on saving the goods from the area. We are upset about the incident,” Qatali said.
He said that those who tried to loot the people’s goods will face justice.