Thursday, 17 October 2019
500 SHOPS, 40 BUILDINGS BURNT DOWN IN ONITSHA FIRE
A WOMAN and her baby died on Wednesday while 40 buildings were burnt in a fire that resulted from a tanker explosion in Upper Iweka, Onitsha, Anambra State.
Over 500 lock-up shops were also razed down.
The incident was said to have started when a tanker laden with Premium Motor Spirit or petrol coming from the Zik Roundabout end of Onitsha-Enugu Expressway lost control around Toronto Hospital and veered off the service lane.
A part of the tanker reportedly fell off and burst into flames amid pouring petrol.
Over 30 private and government-owned transport companies, including luxury bus operators along the area were lucky to escape the fire.
The Nation gathered that a woman carrying her baby reportedly tried to jump out of her shop, but mistakenly stepped on a slippery object and fell into a gutter raging with fuel fire.
She could not be rescued because of the intensity of the fire which covered the area.
Residents, including old men, women and children in most of the buildings were trapped, and some youths had to climb up to three to four-storey buildings to rescue them before the fire got to them.
An eyewitness said the fire started at about 10 am.
Residents said there was no presence of fire service men at the rescue, whether the ones in the markets in Onitsha or those at the local government secretariat in the area.
“You can see people looking helplessly as their houses, shops, goods and flats burnt down. If not for the courage of some youths, some elderly men and women including children trapped in over 10 buildings would have perished in the fire,” the source said.
“Smoke almost suffocated them before they were rescued.”
There was also a mild drama when two toilet-drilling tankers on their way to a disposal site were forced by some angry youths in the area to use the faeces mixed with water in the tank to put off the fire.
The suggestion was briefly adopted before it became clear that it was not workable, and was abandoned.
The fire continued to rage towards Ochanja market.
Efforts were still ongoing to prevent the fire from escalating at the time of filing the report.
The police command confirmed the death of the woman and her child.
Police spokesman Haruna Mohammed said the woman and her child were burnt beyond recognition, adding that there remains had been deposited in a nearby morgue.
The statement read in part: “Today (Wednesday) a trailer loaded with petroleum product lost control at Upper Iweka Road, on the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, Onitsha and crashed into a pavement in-between the expressway.
“As a result, the fire spilled over through the gutter and affected many shops and houses.
“The Commissioner of Police John Abang visited the scene for assessment and appealed to the residents to remain calm.
“Fire Service department was equallycontacted.
“A yet to be identified woman and her baby were caught up by the inferno and burnt beyond recognition. They were rushed to Toronto Hospital but certified dead by a medical doctor while receiving treatment.”
Mohammed said a police patrol team had cordoned off the area to prevent hoodlums from taking advantage of the situation to loot while efforts were ongoing to put off the fire.
He said the command was investigating the case to ascertain circumstances surrounding the incident.