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Adan confirmed that the apartments are all occupied by single men.
Red Cross gave Adam $290 for food and clothing and is helping him find another place to stay. “I am grateful I have my jacket,” he said. “I lost everything.”
Otonga Grocery served halal meats and was popular among the neighborhood’s many Somali American residents. Muse said it had been there since 1998, and that the building was in good shape and had been remodeled last year.
Records show the building was built in 1886 and is permitted for 10 resident rooms. The building is managed by Wadani Properties of Minneapolis, which is owned by Garad Nor, according to Minneapolis and Secretary of State records.
Nor was at the scene Wednesday afternoon, appearing shaken. He said said he has owned the building since 2005 and did not know the fire’s cause. He said he hurried to the scene after the fire started, then went to visit victims at HCMC.
“This is a disaster,” he said. “I’m very sorry for this.”
Mosque next door may be damaged
A mosque and cultural center stands between the grocery, the Islamic Civic Society of America & Dar Al-Hijrah, and Palmers Bar.
Abdisalam Adam, chairman of the center’s board, said its building is separate and the center does not own the building that exploded. He said the mosque has likely been damaged by smoke and water, but he has not been able to get inside to confirm.
“It’s really tragic and unexpected, but we have faith in God,” Adam said. He was out on the street.
Kamaro Ali’s Wajadir Grocery & Halal meat is across the street from the Otonga Grocery. “We have to help each other. If I needed help, they’d help me,” she said.
Nur Abdulkader was asleep in his apartment in the Riverside towers just behind the grocery building when the fire erupted. “Somebody called me and said the building exploded and there was a fire.”
He ran outside and watched the firefighters at work. “These people did a heck of a job.”
Mayor R.T. Rybak, Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges and city council member-elect Abdi Warsame said they had visited some of the victims in the hospital. Hodges called the fire “a tragedy for the city” and said she wanted the families of the victims “to know they’re not alone.”
Staff writers Brandon Stahl and Kevin Duchschere contributed to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-4224 email@example.com • 612-673-7394 firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-1747 @rochelleolson