By Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu – Benin City
A fire outbreak on Saturday night at the popular Santana market along Sapele road has razed down parts of the market destroying goods worth several hundreds of millions of naira.
This brings to three, the number of markets that have been gutted by the fire in the last two months.
Parts of Lagos Street market involving not less than 13 shops were burnt to ashes losing several millions of naira while before then, the popular Uwelu spare part market was gutted by a midnight fire.
The fire in Santana market caught many by surprise as there was torrential rainfall in Benin with flood even around the market.
It was gathered that the fire started around 9 pm when the traders have closed their stalls and retired home.
The inferno raged on till daybreak and reduced everything in the affected fifty stalls to rubles.
As in past instances, firefighters were nowhere in sight and the one from the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), when they came, could only prevent the fire from entering into neighbouring residences.
One of the victims Mrs Cecilia Awala who has been in the market for twenty years said she had never experienced such an incident in the market.
“I was told the fire started around 9 pm and as at that time we have closed from the market, then I received a call that the market was on fire and before I get here everything was gone including my child’s store. All his goods and the money he left in the store, everything is gone. My fish, everything I have in my shop is gone, as I stand here I have nothing at home to eat I mean nothing at all,” she said.
Awala said she doesn’t know the cause of the fire but noticed that there was no power supply before she left market.
A middle-aged man who came to the market to resume his buying and selling Sunday morning oblivious of the fire incident the previous night collapsed upon seeing that the whole shops including his own got burnt.
Mrs Eukaria Ezeribe who deal on clothing materials, households items such as ceramic cooking utensils could not salvage anything from her shop which burnt to ashes.
Another woman, simply referred to as Mama Ofure, a wholesale dealer on rice and beans, said she recently stock her store “but now all are gone in the inferno”, she lamented.
She said she could not salvage anything due to the distance of her house to the market.
However, it was gathered that only those who live close to the market were the ones who could save their good from being consumed in the fire.
Chairman of Ikpoba-Okha local government council, Dr Eric Osayande was on ground to access the extent of the damage.
Osayande who addressed some of the victims assured them that the government would investigate the cause of the fire incident which he said is the first time since the history of the market with a view preventing a reoccurrence.
He promised that the local government would cry out to the state government because the extent of damage is not something the council can solve alone.