NASSAU, Bahamas -- A 27-year-old Nassau man was arrested and charged with four counts of arson in connection with the Sept. 4 fire that destroyed the city's Straw Market and several nearby businesses, the Royal Bahamas Police Force said.

Cordney Brian Gardiner, who lives in the Munsan Village section of Nassau, was arraigned on Sept. 7. A second court date was set for Nov. 28.

According to police, Gardiner deliberately set the fire that destroyed the Straw Market; the Ministry of Tourism's headquarters; Beaumont House, home to several offshore banks, shops and lawyers' offices, and Colony Place, which housed shops and a restaurant.

Meanwhile, on Sept. 10, the Bahamas government began handing out $600 checks to the 528 registered vendors of the Straw Market and to 60 additional vendors located along Woodes Rogers Wharf.

The checks represent $300 per week in supplemental income while a temporary building can be readied for the vendors at Prince George Wharf, location of the cruise terminal.

Meanwhile, up to 560 of the displaced vendors will be relocated to the parking lot of the former Bahamas Electricity Corp. adjacent to the British Colonial Hilton until construction on the alternative structure is completed.

The government also pledged to assist vendors with restocking their stalls with goods. Plans call for the Straw Market to be rebuilt on its original site.

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