By Bose Adelaja
The children were on holidays and their parents had gone to work. But in the afternoon, they tuned their television to watch a programme not knowing that was a costly mistake. As interesting as the programme was, 14-year-old Dayo and his sister, 12-year-old Tawa, did not remember to switch off an electrical appliance in the house.
Time was 12.30 pm that fateful day and the place was a bungalow at No 42 Akilo Street, Bariga, Lagos. Suddenly, a thick smoke issued forth from the room where the electrical iron was in use and out of ignorance, they quietly left the apartment. They did not raise an alarm until the fire spread to other parts of the house. Before help could come their way, about five mini-flats and two shops had been razed as property worth millions of Naira were also lost in an inferno that lasted for hours.
Although sympathisers succeeded in putting out the fire but it was too late as it succeeded in spreading to other apartments.
While the incident lasted, an occupant of the building who operated a pharmaceutical shop nearly got burnt; he fainted in the process and was rushed to a private hospital in the neighbourood. Also, an aged occupant who was undergoing treatment at the time of the incident was thrown over the fence to save him from being burnt while several school children were also rescued in the same manner as the fire had ravaged the entrance of the house.
Although many of the occupants are still thanking God that no life was lost but they have been rendered homeless since that day.
The building was transferred to a developer about eight years ago and was actually wearing a renovated look at the time of the fire destroyed a significant part of it.
Some of the occupants who spoke with Vanguard Metro said they are presently handicapped and were waiting for the next line of action from the developer who was said to have visited the scene. They also lamented that life has been unbearable since their property was lost in the inferno.
Meanwhile, many residents of the area attributed the incident to the carefree lifestyle of Dayo and Tawa and called on parents to give proper training to their wards, especially now that schools are on holidays.
When Vanguard Metro got to the scene, the owner of the apartment was still in shock and could not utter a word. But the tenants spoke with this reporter. ‘’Our landlord is more or less a tenant as he has given the house to a developer and the period of agreement is yet to expire. The man is handicapped for now and I really pity him,” said a tenant who pleaded anonymity.
‘’The children did not do well at all, they saw their apartment burning and they kept quiet; that is their usual practice, they lock themselves up to watch television and were not bothered what happens afterwards. Are they too young to manage themselves?” angrily queried Mrs. Folasade Mohammed.
Another occupant, 55- year-old Raymond Etuk, said the incident caught him unawares. ‘’As you can see to yourself, the building was made up of two wings; one was a block of mini-flats and the other a boys’ quarters. Nobody envisaged the inferno, a neighbour raised an alarm when the fire spread to her apartment. All of us quickly tried to arrest the situation. It was later we discovered that the fire actually started from the first apartment where our neighbours’ children were watching television. The older one was ironing his clothes in the room and he came out to watch a programme in the sitting room and soon forgot to switch off the iron which overheated and caused the fire outbreak. He was not aware of the danger until his sister who was in the bathroom drew his attention to it. Rather than raising an alarm, both of them just walked out of the apartment as if nothing happened. At the end of the day, the whole wing was gutted by fire and all of us lost everything we have laboured for. The incident would have been avoided if the children had remembered to switch off that electrical appliance,’‘ he said.