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Uzbek Market Accident Shrouded in Secrecy

Eyewitnesses say dozens of people were injured after an unfinished roof collapsed at the Jokhon Bazaar, a large market located in Andijan in the east of Uzbekistan.

In the absence of information from state media, some locals say a number of people may have been killed in the September 6 accident.

At around three in the afternoon, when trading was at full swing at the market, customers and traders heard a loud cracking noise as the metal structure supporting the roof broke and fell down onto the people underneath.

“I was at my stall about 100 metres away and I heard a loud sound, as if something was collapsing,” said a woman who sells DVDs at the market. “I ran over and saw a huge pile of debris with a lot of people under it”.

An observer who witnessed the scene said, “Several ambulances took away dead and injured people.”

The police arrived and closed the market, and military units cordoned off the area, instructing people not to tell others about the accident.

“The police told us not to make this information,” said the observer.

Neither police nor the market’s management would comment on the accident.

Jokhon Bazaar is one of Uzbekistan’s largest markets, with over 5,000 stalls selling food, clothes, footwear and other consumer goods.

The accident took place on a weekend day when thousands of people come in from the surrounding region.

Work on a roof began in 2007 to provide protection for market stalls in the cold winter period, and much of it has been completed.

The traders are being asked to pay contributions of 100 to 135 US dollars each to cover the costs.

Some of them suspect that the market authorities used substandard materials so as to cut costs, and that this is why the roof caved in.

“They used cheap, low-quality materials, and this caused the collapse,” said one stallholder. “Not much has been spent on building it, but they charge us a lot.”

(NBCentralAsia is an IWPR-funded project to create a multilingual news analysis and comment service for Central Asia, drawing on the expertise of a broad range of political observers across the region. The project ran from August 2006 to September 2007, covering all five regional states. With new funding, the service has resumed, covering Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.)

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