*One dies, 40 injured, 10 houses, 7 cars destroyed
*I prefer to be dead, cries affected trader
*Crowd, traffic hinder rescue efforts
By EVELYN USMAN, BOSE ADELAJA & MONSUR OLOWOOPEJO
LAGOS—One person was, yesterday, burnt to death and over 40 persons injured when a three-storey building where firecrackers were stored went up in flames at the Idumagbo area of Lagos Island Local Government, Lagos State.
The South West information officer of the National Emergency Management Agency, (NEMA), Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, confirmed that one unidentified person was burnt to death by the raging fire.
He said: “The body has been deposited at the Lagos State General Hospital on the Island.”
He also said that 40 persons were injured, with five sustaining severe injuries, adding “they have been referred to their personal hospitals based on their demands.”
Vanguard gathered that few minutes after the explosion occurred, some of the residents ran helter skelter, following fears that a plane had crashed.
The building located at 45 Ojo Giwa Street, went up in flames at 9:30 am, destroying nine other buildings within 60 metres radius.
The fire also razed over seven vehicles, including those with Number Plates: PK 788 KJA, LG 140 LSR, CG 190 APP. They were parked on the street by the traders and their customers.
I prefer to be dead – affected trader
According to Mr. Hilary Oduegwu, a trader whose office was burnt; “I prefer to be dead by now because I do not know what to do. My business is gone. How do I start again?”
According to him, “I am confused at this time. I have lost everything in my office. I was unable to remove any of my goods worth over N3.5 million.
“I am the breadwinner of my family. I couldn’t go home for the festival because I had to settle some issues. So I told my siblings to leave while I stay back and make more money.”
Speaking on how the explosion occurred, Oduegwu said: “I arrived here at about 10:00 am and I discovered that my office had been razed by fire.”
Mr. Henry Awaroye, another trader who deals in electrical appliances, explained: “I arrived at the office this morning at about 8:30 am and began to display my goods at 2, Okoya Street.
“But few minutes after, I heard a loud bang. Immediately, I ran out of my office to know what was happening. When I got outside, I discovered that people were running and a thick smoke had enveloped the area.
“While I was still busy investigating what may have led to the explosion, I didn’t know that my office has also been affected by the explosion.”
About 40 persons reportedly sustained various degrees of injuries in the resultant stampede.
The raging fire said to have defied efforts of fire fighters, spread to other buildings, with the occupants scampering in different directions for safety.
The affected buildings had stores, majority of which were closed for the Christmas celebration and residential apartments. Also affected was King Ado Senior /Junior school.
Most of the traders who were contacted on phone rushedto the scene in an attempt to salvage some of their goods. Unfortunately, it was the charred remains they met.
One of them who identified himself as Mufutau Ajade, an electronics dealer, could not utter a word when Vanguard approached him at first. But when he summoned courage to speak, he said, “it is so painful that this is happening to me now. When I was informed, I took a cab and rushed down to see if I could salvage some of my electronics. But as you can see, they are all gone. I can not quantify what I lost in the fire. It is worth several millions of Naira. This is not a good way to start the coming new year. It means I have to start life all over again”, he lamented.
I borrowed my capital – Victim
A woman, simply identified as Mrs Gboyega, was seen wailing and rolling on the ground. Speaking in Yoruba, she said the money she used to stockpile her shop for the Christmas was borrowed with a promise to pay the lender at the end of January 2013.
Another trader, Ndubuisi Okafor said: “I just started my own business this December. I had to borrow the sum of N3.5 million to start this electronics business just two weeks ago, only for every thing to go down the drain just like that”.
It was discovered that aside the goods that were destroyed by the fire, cash was also destroyed as some of the traders reportedly had in-built safes in their shops. Some of the affected traders were discovered to have traveled to their home states for the Christmas celebration.
Rescue teams such as policemen, officials of the National Emergency Management Agency NEMA, LASEMA, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Federal and state fire services, Red Cross among others were sighted at the scene.
Affected buildings to be pulled down
Already, the two-storey building where the fire started, had been brought down completely. General Manager of LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, who was at the scene, disclosed that all affected buildings would be completely brought down. Asked whether there were plans to compensate occupants of the affected buildings, he said there were no plans for that yet, until investigation into the cause of the fire was concluded. The affected buildings included numbers 43, 45, 47, 49 Ojogiwa Street and others which numbers could not be immediately ascertained because of the manner they were numbered.
The Director of the Lagos State Fire Service, Rasaq Fadipe told Vanguard that effort to contain the fire started at about 10am.
Spokes person of the Lagos State Police Command, Ngozi Braide who was also at the scene, described the incident as one that could have been prevented, had report on the sale of fireworks at the warehouse been reported to the Police.
Stop this dangerous business, Fashola warns residents
Speaking on the incident, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State appealed to the residents to desist from the dangerous business, saying “the consequences are more than the gain.”
Fashola recalled that few months ago, he urged the residents to desist from storing inflammable materials in their homes, because the dry season has commenced.
“But they have failed to listen to our appeals. We know that people have the right in a democratic government to decide whatever they wish to do but they can only embark on such act when it is not injurious to others.
“The government cannot be everywhere; all that the government could do is to appeal to the residents to desist from such business of storing these inflammables in our homes.”
According to him: “Two weeks ago, the state fire service responded to over 22 fire cases. We can reduce such statistics but government cannot commence door-to-door check to know who have stored any inflammable materials in their homes.”