Posted by Pamela Eboh, Awka | 17 February 2017 | 2,620 times
Some of the burnt buildings. Photo: Pamela Eboh.
An 80-year-old man miraculously survived the inferno that wreaked havoc in the famed commercial town of Onitsha, Anambra State, on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Witnesses told News Express that the man, who owns Solo Supermarket located in the affected area, was locked up in his house when the fire started “but was miraculously saved” after sympathisers broke into his house as the fire raged.
The inferno was caused by a fuel tanker which rammed into Mobil Filling Station located opposite Dennis Memorial Grammar School (DMGS) after the driver lost control – and exploded. Over eight buildings and more than 30 vehicles parked in the vicinity were gutted by the fire.
Businesses in Onitsha were yesterday grounded following the fire disaster. When News Express visited the scene of the incident, vehicular movements were totally grounded along the Upper New Market Road and Oguta Road along DMGS as soldiers, naval policemen, as well as officials of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) cordoned off the roads.
The fire, which started in the night and lasted till morning, was said to have been contained through the efforts of the Fire Service of neighbouring Delta State as there is no fire disaster unit located within Onitsha.
One of the first callers at the scene of the inferno was the Bishop of the Niger, Rt. Rev. Owen Nwokolo, who arrived with over 30 senior Anglican priests.
Nwokolo who could barely control his emotions described the incident as a great loss that came at a time people are going through hardship.
He called on the State Government, the emergency services and all well meaning Nigerians to come to the help of the affected people, saying that it is not just about empathising with the victims but by helping them to recover all what they have lost.
The Bishop said: “In a civilised world, things like this do not happen because the town planning officials would have ensured that filling stations are not to be cited near residential areas because the possibility of fire outbreak is always there.
“Filling stations should be sited where there are no residential buildings. The government must do something about that, we expect the government and its various agencies to ensure that proper planning is done so that things that can harm people would not be sited near residential areas.”
The State Governor, Willie Obiano on hearing the news cut short his Abuja trip to visit the scene of the disaster.
Speaking at the scene, the Governor said: “As you can see Onitsha is developing, I saw this Mobil Filling Station here and some of them have stayed here for over 50 years.
“I know that Anyika Family was managing this one in those days, they were built when nobody was living here but people started building around them, and now people are living near them we will provide land for their owners to relocate so that the lives of the people will not be in danger.”
Governor Obiano came in the company of the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe, the Commander, 302 Artillery Regiment, Col. Idongesit Akpan, and the Commanding Officer, Navy Outpost, Onitsha, Captain Mohammed Dahiru. He said that his administration has acquired three special fire fighting trucks three in one capacity adding that the features in the truck are 10,000, litres in water, 750 litres in foam and 75 kilogrammes of powder, and other features.