By PETER DURU, Makurdi
THE Makaar family once lived in a peaceful home that resonated with sounds of joy and laughter much to the envy of neighbours and visitors alike. But a mysterious inferno has since put paid to that, dealing a devastating blow on nine-year-old Aondugu Makaar who is the only survivor as both his parents and a four-year-old sibling perished in the fire.
In fact, it took the special grace of God and the timely intervention of neighbours to rescue the young lad but his parents and sister were not that lucky as they were all roasted by the strange fire that engulfed the only home he knew.
The house which was located at the ever-busy Katsina-Ala Street, in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, was four months ago rented by his father, Mr. Terhemba Makaar, a senior official of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, in the state.
Lying helplessly at the popular Saint Theresa Hospital in Makurdi, where he is currently receiving treatment for first degree burns, young Aondugu, which means “God is good”, must be wondering why his good God didn’t save him this agony and what the future holds for him after the tragic incident.
Vanguard Metro gathered from an eyewitness that the victims, Terhemba Makaar, his wife and daughter were roasted in the unfortunate inferno before help could reach them.
According to the witness, Mrs. Terwase Ornye, who is a neighbour of the victims: “The fire started at about 2am when everyone had gone to bed. We were suddenly jolted awake by shouts of fire, fire, coming from the house. We heard someone screaming: ‘help me, help me’. The flame and smoke were too much and the house has only one entry door with burglary proof supporting the windows and doors; so it was very difficult for anyone to go in and rescue them.
“While some of us were busy pouring water on the building in order to put out the fire, others struggled hard to break a portion of the house while the fire was still raging. Unfortunately when youths in the area succeeded in breaking into the house, Mrs. Makaar and her four-year-old daughter had already been burnt beyond recognition, while their father who though suffered little burns had already been choked to death.
Fortunately, their only son, nine year old Aondugu Makaar, was rescued alive and immediately rushed to Saint Theresa Hospital Makurdi where he is currently receiving treatment and in stable condition.” On the cause of the strange fire, the witness said: “It could be as a result of power surge because it was barely 30 minutes after the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, restored electricity to the area when the fire started”.
She lamented that the victims would have been rescued “if officials of the State Fire Service had arrived the scene on time, because we tried severally to reach them only to discover that they had another incident to take care of in the north bank area of the town; before they arrived the scene, the entire house had been completely engulfed by inferno and the victims roasted.”
Corroborating the story, another witness and journalist, Mr. Uche Nnorom said: “We all woke up on hearing shouts coming from the building, and when we got there, the entire house was on fire. We made efforts to rescue the victims but our effort was in futility because the entire house was protected with burglary proof which made it difficult for anyone to gain access into the house. “And the most painful part of it all was the failure of men of the State Fire Service to respond quickly to the distress call we put to them which perhaps accounted for the high level of devastation.”
When Vanguard Metro, VM, visited Saint Theresa Hospital, it was gathered that the remains of Mr. Makaar have been deposited at the hospital’s morgue, while the charred remains of his late wife and daughter had been taken away for immediate burial. His only surviving son Aondugu was being treated at no cost by the hospital. VM gathered from the nurse in-charge of the ward, Oche Mathew, that the lad was brought to the hospital at the early hours of the morning by neighbours.
He disclosed that “the hospital’s management has directed that Aondugu should be treated and fed at no cost pending when public spirited Nigerian would rise up to render assistance to the little boy. “At the moment he is responding to treatment but he is still in shock, his life is not in danger, but he needs help”
One of the visitors who thronged the hospital in tears to catch a glimpse of the orphaned boy enjoined “good spirited Nigerians to emulate the hospital’s gesture by extending some form of help to this brilliant young boy; please we must not allow his dreams die with the bizarre death of his parents”.
VM also gathered that late Mr. Terhemba Makaar had not too long ago also lost his first wife.
When contacted, the Benue State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Deputy Superintendent Daniel Ezeala said the police had commenced investigations into the matter.