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Hell on earth on a Sunday…As residents count their losses in fire disaster

By Fredrick Okopie

For Christians, Sunday is a holy day of obligation, a day set aside for special worship of God based on Biblical injunction. As a result Sundays always find Christians of different denonminations converging in their respective places of worship to perform this sacred obligation.

But beyond worshipping God, Sunday has also come to be a popular day for  recreation, visits, partying, etc. Generally speaking, most people, regardless of their religious backgrounds, perceive Sunday as a day of rest.

However, for the residents of No.25 Okito Street, Ajegunle, in Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Area of Lagos state, Sunday 2, August 2009 will for a long time remain a day that never should have been. It was a day their homes and all their precious possessions were razed by a mystery inferno. When Vanguard Metro visited the densely populated Okito Street where the inferno occurred, all that were left of  the buildings that used to be there were the rubbles,  burnt blocks and charred household items.

It is said that a broken  heart can mend with   time, but these unfortunate residents presently feel that this statement does not hold true for them. This is because none of them was able to salvage any of their prized possessions from the inferno that gutted their homes.

Vanguard Metro inquiries as to the cause of the fire outbreak produced two versions.  According to an eye witness who pleaded for anonymity, it was caused by a child in one of the rooms playing with matches. Another version attributed it to a power generating set that exploded.

But a young man was later to admonish Vanguard Metro thus: “Please, they said nobody should be allowed to enter any of these rooms, because the owners are coming to pick some of their properties O!”

The building was a 16-room popular Face-Me-I-Face type house  commonly seen in most suburban Lagos Metropolis. Vanguard Metro learnt that there were no lives lost in the inferno.  The predominant articles that littered most of the rooms were partly burn books of primary school pupils.  There was also a Holy Bible with only the letter of saint Paul to the Philippians spared.

One of the victims of the inferno who came around to greet unaffected neighbours at the boys quarters of the same compound told  Vanguard Metro that she was not at home when the incident happened. “I was at a function when my phone rang and the caller said our house was on fire, I raced down to see things for myself and behold the whole house was on fire,” she informed.

She narrated further: “My husband came too to carry the generating set that was at the back of our room. That was the only thing we could get. As we were staring helplessly at the fire, somebody raised alarm that one of my children was somewhere inside the yard and some good Samaritans scaled through the fence to rescue him”, adding:  “Thank God that we are alive.”

According to a resident of the adjacent building, No. 27 Okito Street, Engineer Owodunmi Efunbajo, who was around when the fire started: “The fire started around 5:30 to 6pm on that Sunday  August 2, 2009. It started  from one of the rooms in that building. But nobody can   say what really caused it; but when it started people from nearby places tried to put it out to no avail.

“As the fire kept on burning,  men of the fire service came with three of their vehicles; two were from Isolo and the other was from Iyana-Ipaja. It was their combined efforts that eventually succeeded in putting it off”.

Engineer Efunbajo, revealed that if not for the effort of the spirited residents, the fire could have spread to the two nearby buildings that sandwiches the affected one. “ If not for the good people living around here, the fire could have spread to these two buildings(pointing at them ).

“They assisted us in breaking some parts of the roof which was almost on fire. As you can see, it was yesterday(August 4) I repaired it”.

When asked to evaluate the cost of the properties destroyed by the fire, he said: “ If I have to estimate the cost of the properties destroyed, I would put it at N16 million or thereabout; that is beside the cost of the building and the landed property”.

He thanked the DPO of Ajeromi Ifelodun Police Station and the Honourable Councillor of ward “D” Akeem Suleiman, who visited twice to commiserate with the victims of fire incident. But the DPO  could not be reached to confirm the incident as he was said to be indisposed.


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