By FREDRICK OKOPIE
THE residents of house No. 44 Ijaiyi Street, in Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government, of Lagos State, were shocked beyond words on Friday, October 14, 2011 as a mysterious fire gutted the one storey building.
In fact, they are yet to recover from the shock, especially after taking count of their huge losses in the inferno, including the death of two elderly occupants.
Worse affected by the incident were occupants of the upper rooms in the first floor as the personal belongings that had taken them years to acquire were burnt beyond recognition. According to a source, not a single pin was salvaged before the inferno reduced the building to a smoudering ash.
Down stairs occupants were able to save few of their belongings, but lost some valuables to hoodlums popularly referred to as “Boys” in Ajegunle.
But the loss of personal effects is the least of concern of most of the occupants. They are presently mourning the death of the two elderly women.
When Vanguard Metro, VM visited the scene of the inferno last week, smoke was issuing from one of the rooms. Most occupants were unavailable to speak on the incident.
But a nursing mother who refused to disclose her identity had this to say: “Nobody could really say what caused the fire. But we first noticed it at about 11:35pm. We all believed it was caused by an electric surge in Mrs. Esane Aburimo’s room. The woman who is popularly known as Mama Abu and is 90 plus, died along with the landlady, Mrs. Christiana Ugutanyin who is known as Mama Queen and is 100 years old. Four other persons suffered injuries and were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
“The two old women died because of their infirmities; Mama Abu was very fat and could not walk fast. While the fire was raging she only cried out faintly for help, but help came too late”. She informed that the woman’s charred remains had been buried at the Amukoko cemetery. Speaking further, she said the landlady’s story was a pathetic one as she had been on wheel chair for years. “She could only wheel herself from the passage to the bathroom. That was why she could not escape when the fire started. She was immediately engulfed in smoke and fire. It was much later that we saw that what was only left was her skull. The following day, that was Saturday, she was interred in front of the compound(pointing at the direction of the grave),” the woman told VM.
A food vendor told VM that while the inferno raged, hoodlums took advantage of the resulting confusion to cart away the distressed tenants’ belongings. She said a particular woman who runs a beer palour had her box of jewelry and household items stolen after she had succeeded in salvaging them. Another occupant had his power generating set, wheelbarrow and phone handsets stolen by the hoodlums.
She also informed how a physically-challenged boy, Taire, 17, from Bayelsa State, jumped with his crutches when nobody came to his rescue.
VM was told that men of the Lagos State Fire and Safety Services came too late to save the situation. The late arrival of the fire fighters was said to have angered the residents who twice attempted to chase them before they were allowed to put out the fire.
A visibly angry woman said as the fire was raging, another woman was shouting “Holy Ghost fire! Holy Ghost fire!!” The area boys rebuked her “for trying to worsen the situation by calling for more fire”. This provided some form of comic relief as everybody laughed.