By Vincent Ujumadu
THE inhabitants of sleepy village of Umuofor, Okija in Ihilala local government area of Anambra State were jolted on Wednesday when they observed a raging fire had engulfed a building belonging to Mr. Maxwell Okeke popularly known as Dike Igbo. The incident happened around 8.00pm when most families were busy preparing their dinner at the end of the day’s business.
The mystery fire killed Mrs. Nwazuru Okeke and her two children, Chidiebube and Makuochukwu, while the neighbours watched helplessly as they could not do much to assist them. Mrs. Okeke was three months pregnant, while her two children were two years and one year respectively.
When the people noticed the fire from the building, they prayed that there was nobody inside the house, but their prayer turned to lamentation as three human bodied burnt beyond recognition were seen on the corner of one of the bedrooms.
However, questions were being asked as to the cause of the fire. Mr. Okechukwu Nnajiofor, who lives in the neighbourhood said although it was suspected that the fire might have spread from the cooking which the late Nwazuru was cooking with before the incident, it was observed that the stove was not even burnt, while almost everything in the house was burnt to ashes.
Nnajiofo said. “The stove was suspected to have caused the fire, but the stove did not get burnt. Again, there were escape routes which the woman should have run away from with her children, but the woman and her children did not use them. The room where they were found dead was open, yet she was unable to run out with the children. Rather they were found burnt beyond recognition on one corner of one of the bedrooms, which was also open when people got into the house after the incident.”
According to Nnajiofor, people were just pouring sand and water on the burning house, which did not yield any good result and the fire only stopped after doing the damage. When people got into the house after the fire incident, it appeared as if the woman and her children were pinned down on a spot such that they were unable to run out of the house.
Another eye witness, Mr. Ikechukwu Dike said it was a pitiable sight when the three bodies were seen already dead in one of the bedrooms in the house after the fire was put out. Already, some people in the area were suspecting foul play, wondering why the woman could not run out of the house when escape routes were available for her.
“It took the neighbours a long time to quench the fire because of its intensity, coupled with the fact that the people used only water and sand in their attempt to rescue the situation,” Dike said.
He observed that in an ideal society, every local government area headquarter and big towns like Okija, are supposed to have fire service stations for prompt and rapid response to a situation like this, regretting that the federal, state and local governments appear not to care about the life of the citizens
Meanwhile, the Anambra State police command has already swung into action to get to the root of the mystery fire incident. Police public relations officer, PPRO, Mr. Mohammed Haruna, who reacted on the Okija incident, said the police was already investigating the cause of the fire.
He said: “Yes, there was a fire incident at Umuofor village, Okija at the residence of one Maxwell Okeke. As a result, his pregnant wife named Nwazuru Okeke, two children namely Chidiebube Okeke aged two years and Makuochukwu Okeke, aged one year, were trapped in the inferno and burnt beyond recognition.
“Police detectives attached to Okija Division visited the scene and the fire was put off with the assistance of local volunteers in the area. Cause of the fire is yet unknown, but the Commissioner of Police, CP Rabiu Ladodo, has ordered for a full scale investigation to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the incident.”
Pix: Chidiebube and Makuochukwu killed along with their mother during the fire incident that burnt their house at Okija, Anambra State.