By ISHOLA BALOGUN
The devastating fire disasters in many parts of the country in the last couple of weeks have left though a few people dead but several homes were destroyed and hundreds of people displaced. Just as many Nigerians were still savouring the thrills of the festive period, others have been counting their loses as a result of different infernoes in some parts of the country. Fire fighters have never had a busy time combating the incidents in some states. In Lagos State alone, Fire and Safety Service said it battled no fewer than 33 fire outbreaks across the state between the last one week.
Those who are worried about the sequence of the fire under the harsh weather condition still believed it is not over yet, postulating several precautionary measures in averting further inferno.
The opener during the yuletide was a three-storey building where firecrackers were stored at the Idumagbo area of Lagos Island, local government, Lagos.
The firecrackers went up in flames destroying 10 buildings within 60 metres radius. Although one person died, over 40 persons sustained varying degrees of injuries. One of the traders who had lost over N3.5million worth of goods wept profusely wondering where to start from all over again.
While still empathizing with those who lost properties in the Lagos inferno, the former president also escaped unhurt in the fire which razed his confidential secretary’s office located nearhis bedroom in his Hilltop building at Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, Ogun State capital. The fire, which did not spare anything in the office, occurred 20 minutes after he stepped out of the house.
Tragedy again struck in Lagos on New Year day as two buildings on Jones Street, Ebute-Metta, Yaba Local Government, were razed and property worth millions of naira destroyed.
It was gathered that the house went up in flames as a housewife was said to be cooking in the passage of a wooden structure with a stove beside a generating set that was filled with petrol. A witness said the woman “while still cooking, she left the house to purchase some cooking ingredients. But before she came back, the fire had begun and spread to the next building uncontrollably.”
Still on that new year day, five other houses near the Ikoku spare parts market in Port Harcourt were destroyed. The fire was said to have started from the dump site of the market in Gambia Street, Port Harcourt and spread to other surrounding buildings destroying houses and properties. Several new cars were said to have been burnt.
Barely 48 hours after, 50 buildings were razed in Ebute Meta area of Lagos. A storey building was also gutted by fire on Igando Road, Ikotun area of the state. Eyewitnesses said two children whose parents were not around when the fire started were trapped in the building but were evacuated by neighbours with a ladder through the window of their apartments. Other places in the state gutted by fire are Mba street along Asakpo in Boundary, Ajegunle area and the Saw Millers buildings, Oyingbo among others.
Early in the week, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headquarters in Abuja also had its own tale in the last couple of weeks. The fire, which gutted the office of the Director of Voters’ Registry, Mr. Emmanuel Akeem, was put out by fire fighters from the Federal and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Fire Services before it could do more damage. We gathered that the fire could not extend beyond the next office as a result of the architectural design.
As if that was not enough, business activities in the Tin Can Island Port, Apapa, Lagos, were brought to a halt when an oil barge discharging petrol at the MRS Oil and Gas tank farm jetty in the area exploded few days ago.
Vehicles, buildings were destroyed as glass doors were shattered causing people within two kilometers radius to scamper for safety, as the sounds reverberated up to Wharf Road and Olodi in Apapa.
An eyewitness said at least five lifeless bodies wrapped in white clothes were taken away to an unknown place . The administrative building of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ports and Cargo complex, and a commercial Bank not far from the explosion scene were also affected.
As the Lagos fire fighters were battling the Tin Can explosion, their counterparts in Oyo state were also busy with all their arsenals on ground trying to stop the raging fire that visited the palace of a first class monarch, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, Ibadan, Oyo sate, destroying everything on ground.
The early morning inferno said to have been caused by an electrical surge, razed the three apartments belonging to the Queens Folasade (Iyaa Meta), Rukayat and Abibat, destroyed virtually all their valuables including artifacts in the magnificent building.
Earlier in the state, about 20 shops where goods worth millions of naira were kept burnt to ashes as fire gutted Ifeleye Market at Oke Padre area of Ibadan, the second time fire would destroy the market within a year. Although there was no causality, goods and property worth several hundreds of millions were destroyed.
Few days ago, a pregnant woman and her two-year old daughter were killed in a mysterious fire which engulfed a house in Ubachima, Awo-Omamma in Oru East Local Government Area of Imo.
Even though some of the these tragedies were caused by by human error, the sequence in which they occurred in different parts of the country should ignite a lot of concern from authorities. How are the fire fighters responding to distress calls. Most of the incidents, as gathered was that the fire fighters were far from being prompt while responding to distress calls.
Some of those who spoke to Saturday Vanguard on the issue however absolved the fire fighters of blame citing lack of adequate infrastructures and facilities especially while responding to emergency. “If truly we have about 250 fire stations in the country, how many of them are functional and where are they located?”, asked Muyiwa Obadan, a security consultant based in Lagos.
A Meteorologist who works with Nigeria Meteorologist Training Institute but craved anonymity noted that the so-called climate change should be considered a factor in the sequence the inferno occurred. “You can’t rule out the harsh weather condition, although some of these incidents occurred in the morning but the extreme heat in most part of the country today is a fire risk,” he stated.
This view was corroborated by Obadan who said: “the weather is harsh now and it could be a risk for any inflammable substance. The earlier incidence in Lagos where fire-crackers were stored could have been triggered by the excessive heat having locked it up for God knows when.
So, people should be very careful in handling inflammable things.” He also advised that people should take precautionary measures especially on preventing electrical surge which is a common cause of fire as well as avoiding bush burning.
The Director of the service, Mr. Fadipe Idowu in his own opinion said, “The rise in cases of fire is due to the dry season which causes fire to burn faster as well as the climatic changes.” He advised members of the public to take safety precautions especially with electrical appliances as many of the recent fires were caused by electrical power fluctuations.