Truck drivers who suffered heavy losses from the massive fire breakout at Herat's Islam Qala Customs in February have shut down Herat-Islam Qala and Herat-Torghondi highways, and accuse the central government of negligence in reimbursing the losses they suffered in the incident.
A month ago the government’s probe team completed its findings from the incident, but it has not publicized them, said the truck drivers.
Meanwhile, the Herat Chamber of Commerce and Industry warned that the closure of the two most important highways in the province may cause vast financial losses to the private sector.
The truck drivers have set up a protest tent in front of the Herat customs office, calling for justice to be served, specifically in the form of compensation by the government.
“Until they (the government) reimburse people’s losses, the protesters will not allow the Islam Qala and Torghondi ports to reopen,” said Basir Aryan, the Drivers’ Union agent in the west.
Abdullah, another driver, said that 1,254 trucks were damaged in the incident, and that at least ten people associated with each truck participated in the protest.
The truck drivers say that if the government does not address their demands they will keep the two highways closed.
Herat-Islam Qala and Herat-Torghondi are the two main highways in Herat province, and a large amount of cargo is transported on these routes.
Some of the protesting drivers say that corruption has caused the fire incident at Islam Qala.
“I had one truck that was burned about 50 days ago at the Herat customs office due to corruption-related causes,” a truck driver, Abdu Qader, said.
The deputy chief of Herat's Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Abdul Latif Qanawezyaan, said that If the government does not respond to the demands of protesters, they will continue blocking other streets.
“Millions of dollars of losses may be imposed on the private sector, and Afghan merchants may be affected if the protesters continue closing streets every day and week,” he added.
Herat local officials said that the government-assigned probe team has completed its investigation into the root causes of the Islam Qala fire incident and the findings were submitted to President Ashraf Ghani about a month ago.
“Our affected people are on the streets and, asking for justice, that is their right, we listened to their demands,” the governor of Herat, Sayed Waheed Qatali, said.
Based on figures provided by the Herat Chamber of Commerce and Industry, nearly 1,300 trucks were damaged in the Islam Qala fire on February 14 in Herat province, causing millions of dollars' worth of damage.
The government of Afghanistan has not provided official figures about the losses from the incident yet.