RESIDENTS of Awka, the capital city of Anambra State were thrown into shock as fire razed down shops and destroyed goods worth millions of naira in early hours of Monday.
The fire outbreak which started around 6:15 am happened along the Oby Okoli Avenue, by Club Road Junction (formerly Abakaliki Street), Awka.
Arriving the scene, our correspondent observed that officers of the Anambra State Fire Service were already on ground, assisting in quenching the fire, while the men of Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), and the Nigerian Police Force (led by Emmanuel Ogbuanya, the DPO, B Division, Awka) were also on duty, controlling the traffic and intervening in other relevant ways.
Speaking to newsmen, the Anambra State Sector Commander, FRSC, Andrew Kumapayi said he received a distress call concerning the incident and he quickly mobilised his men to the scene, and also alerted the Fire Service, the joint effort of whom, he confirmed, helped to bring the situation under control.
Commander Kumapayi who disclosed that the cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained, said he suspected that it could be linked to electrical malfunctioning, spark or power surge, as there was light as at the time the incident started. This, he said, would be confirmed, pending further investigation.
He further cautioned the public against leaving their electrical appliances on while not in use, and urged them to procure and always keep fire extinguishers ready in their homes, shops and offices, in case of any fire outbreak.
On his own part, the Officer in Charge of Fire Risk Reduction and Education, Anambra State Fire Service, Mr. Chukwuemeka Akpagu said the prompt intervention of their men helped to reduce the extent of damages caused by the fire, as it was prevented from escalating to other shops.
While consoling the victims whose shops were affected by the fire, Akpagu, further dosed out some fire safety tips to the teeming spectators, and urged them to always notify the fire service on time whenever there is incidence of fire outbreak, as the service is always available and absolutely free for them.
Some of the victims, including Mr. Chidiebere Odina (provisions seller), Miss Onwe Gift Onyinyechi (hair dresser) and Mr. Ugonna Matthew lamented their ordeal and described the incident as shocking and unfortunate, even as they called on government, private organisations and other kindhearted individuals to come to their assistance, as they were all breadwinners in their respective families.
An eyewitness who pleaded anonymity, however, said that she saw a group of three young boys pouring substance suspected to be Premium Motor Spirit (fuel) around one of the shops when she was passing early in morning, only for her to come back 20 minutes later and see that the whole shops were on fire.
Though no casualty was recorded, but the early Monday morning fire razed down a total of four shops, with goods and other items worth millions of naira.
Meanwhile, in Onitsha, residents of an unmarked building at the extreme of Olive Crescent, off Ugwumba Street in Nkpor, Idemili North Local Government, Anambra State are counting their losses following fire outbreak that gutted the compound on Monday.
The yet to be completed one-storey building caught fire around 2:00pm and stretched it ruins to neighbouring building facing Ugwumba Street, razing down boys quarters of the compound completely.
A resident at Olive Crescent, who identified himself as Sunday while speaking to National Light stated that the inferno started with a careless flame at the compound which was caught by tanks of gas packed in the compound.
“Somebody was burning refuse as was the habit of some people in the yard when gas tanks stationed in the compound caught fire and exploded into wild flames. There were no capable hands to have put out the fire at the early stages else it may have been controlled.” He noted amidst sob.
Fire fighters arrived the scene around 4:00pm and frantically brought the raging inferno under control but some damage has been done already as the Boys Quarters of the neighbouring compound had been completely razed down.
Neither the owner of the building nor the caretaker was handy to speak to the media on the sad incident.
Scores of people gathered and provided all assistance in ensuring that the inferno did not spread across nearby buildings. No life was equally lost but property worth substantial amount was lost.
Anambra State fire service, Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) were all on ground to ensure that the situation was well under control.