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Massive fire devours Guatemalan market, destroys thousands of stalls

By Romina Ruiz-Goiriena and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 7:22 PM EDT, Tue March 25, 2014
Two shopkeepers sit by their stalls after a fire Tuesday, March 25, at La Terminal market in Guatemala City. The fire destroyed approximately 6,000 stalls in the market, the state-run AGN news agency reported. Two shopkeepers sit by their stalls after a fire Tuesday, March 25, at La Terminal market in Guatemala City. The fire destroyed approximately 6,000 stalls in the market, the state-run AGN news agency reported.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • State media: A massive fire destroyed 6,000 stalls in La Terminal market
  • The fire broke out in Guatemala City around 2:30 a.m.
  • Firefighters struggled to battle the blaze due to a shortage of water in the area

Guatemala City (CNN) -- A major fire devoured thousands stalls in a market in Guatemala's capital Tuesday, state media reported.

Authorities haven't determined what caused the fire, which broke out around 2:30 a.m. in La Terminal market in Guatemala City.

The fire destroyed approximately 6,000 stalls in the market, the state-run AGN news agency reported.

For hours, a dark column of smoke billowed from the market.

Volunteer firefighters said they struggled to battle the blaze due to a shortage of water in the area, adding that they had difficulty persuading vendors to leave their stalls.

"People often stay to sleep in their posts," Guatemala City Mayor Alvaro Arzu said. "They have gas tanks there. They are accidental, but with enormous consequences."

More than 300 people were evacuated from the area, and paramedics treated at least 15 people at the scene for smoke inhalation. Two people were transported to a hospital with burns, officials said.

The fire spread quickly, officials said, because many makeshift stalls in the market were built with wood and plastic.

President Otto Perez Molina flew over the market Tuesday and vowed that government funds would be devoted to rebuilding, AGN said.

Journalist Romina Ruiz-Goiriena reported from Guatemala City. CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet wrote the story in Atlanta.

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