The law enforcers fired the teargas to disperse a crowd of angry villagers at Chia in the district who blocked the road at Chia bridge jamming traffic in the process.
Lucy Hussain recounted events of the day saying she heard a sound of something landing on the rooftop of her grass-thatched house and going out, she saw that the foreign object was emitting smoke which graduated into flames.
“It was at night and was sleeping in the house with my children when this happened. From my house, I could hear noise from the road but did not bother to know what was happening.
“Suddenly I heard a sound of something falling on the roof, when I went out to see, I found that there was smoke all over so I escaped together with my children,” she said.
When she returned to the house the following morning Hussain said she found her house in ashes.
The widow and mother of seven say she is in dire need of assistance to pick up her life together as all her property including food and clothes were consumed in the blaze.
When contacted to comment on the matter, Central-Eastern Police Region spokesperson Harry Namwanza said they have not registered any complaint on the matter.
He however said police will investigate to ascertain if the teargas canister was responsible for the fire.
“As police, we have not received any complaint on the alleged fire accident. As you are aware, the operation was carried out at night, so anything can happen in the dark. As police, we need to do our own investigation to establish if indeed that fire was caused by the teargas canister,” Namwanza said.
Hussain admitted that she had not reported the matter to the police saying she does not hope to be assisted since the police are the ones who set the fire.
Asked whether a teargas canister is capable of sparking fire, security expert Sherif Kaisi who is a retired Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldier said the teargas canister can ignite fire.
“Inside the teargas canister, you find elements made from different materials some of which are toxic in nature. In there you find a powder that is highly flammable.”
Police were deployed to the area to clear the M5 road which villagers blocked at Chia bridge to force the release of a witch doctor arrested by the men in uniform on allegations he accused someone of practicing witchcraft.
Meanwhile, police say they have arrested 11 people in connection to the violence.