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Protest rally of vendors affected by the fire

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, February 7
Vendors who suffered serious losses after a recent fire in Tbilisi shopping center held a rally in front of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili’s residence, the man who founded the current ruling Georgian Dream party and who is named as the “real ruler” of the country by the parliamentary opposition.

Up to 1,000 vendors lost property in the fire, which damaged about 15,000 square meters of a trading centre known as 'Children’s World' in central Tbilisi. Some of these victims are demanding the financial or other support from the government.

The protesters were not unanimous in their demands, with some of them asking for compensation or assistance with their bank obligations, while others request the allocation of alternative spaces to continue their work.

Meanwhile, certain owners of the trading centre have stated that the fire could have been deliberate.

“Tbilisi City Hall is actively involved in efforts aimed at assisting the fire-affected traders, as well as the administration of the Children's World trade center,” Tbilisi Mayor Davit Narmania said.

He said the list of the affected population was sent to the banks through the National Bank and the Association of Banks, in order for the appropriate financial institutions to grant some allowances to the victims.

“First of all, the goods that survived the fire must be taken out of the building and given to the owners - this is the main task,” Narmania said.

Vendors who had gold in special fire-proof lock boxes have entered the burned building under the supervision of emergency service staff and taken their belongings out.

Georgia’s Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, expressed concern over the fire, which completely burnt down the building over night of January 29-30 and left around 1,000 vendors without jobs and various types ofgoods.

The Emergency Management Service says that in total, around 15,000 square meters were burnt during the fire.

Around 30 fire engines were trying to extinguish the fire for six hours, which damaged the building’s foundations and left one firefighter with light injuries.

The cause of the fire is unknown. The police have launched an investigation under article which envisages destruction of property, causing substantial damage.